Wednesday, 28 March 2012
Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Author: Emily M. Danforth
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: February 7th, 2012
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction
In 1989, twelve year old Cameron Post has just found out that both of her parents were killed in a car crash, and the first thing she feels is relief. Relief that they will never have to know that that day she had kissed a girl. But relief is soon replaced with guilt, and Cameron feels like her parents’ deaths were a sort of punishment for her actions. Cameron lives in Miles City, Montana, and vaguely knows what being a lesbian is and what it means for you when you live in a small religious town. After the accident, Cameron’s Aunt Ruth, who is devoutly Christian, comes to live with Cam and her grandmother. As Cameron becomes a teenager, she starts to live a double life. Under her aunt, she becomes a member of the local church’s youth group, while spending nights breaking into an old hospital, getting high and fantasising about other girls. Remarkably to Cam, she becomes best friend with Coley Taylor, half of the perfect couple. Coley is straight, but Cameron can’t help being attracted her. But just as Cameron feels like she could get away with anything, everything begins to fall apart when her family learns that she is a lesbian. Cameron is promptly sent to a special school called Promise, in hopes that she will be cured. As Cam’s days become full of people trying to figure out what happened to make her the way she is and how that can change, she tries to be proud of who she is, no matter what anyone else thinks.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a coming of age story as well as a coming out story, following Cameron from the age of twelve to seventeen. I had never heard of this book when I saw it in the bestsellers section, and based on the cover I expected a book sort of like Dairy Queen; a light hearted look at the life of a farm girl. Of course, I soon read the synopsis and felt like I had to read this book, which was so different from what I imagined. After having read it, I thought that it was utterly amazing, and I haven’t felt this way about a book in a long time. It was completely consuming and practically impossible to put down. This book tackled some serious issues, some which are relevant to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. This book would have been a lot harder to handle if it wasn’t for Cam’s humor and sarcasm, which never wavered even when things got bad. The majority of the book follows Cam’s life in Miles City, while the end focuses on her life at Promise. The characters were realistically flawed and many of them jumped off the page. I liked how Danforth showed the complexities of the characters and that people aren’t simply black or white. Based on other books I’ve read, I think it can be difficult for an author not to become preachy when writing a book like this. I think Danforth did an excellent job of not telling us how wrong what happened to Cam was but shows us instead. I hate feeling like I’m being lectured by a book (like I felt in Breaking Dawn about not having premarital sex) and Miseducation gets the message across without constantly having to spell it out. The prose was quite beautiful at times, in a way that takes a hold of you. I actually cannot think of any flaws in this book, although I suppose the length could mean that it might drag along for people who are not as interested in realistic fiction as I am. However, I would probably recommend this book to everyone. I love the writing, the characters, the themes, the story and even the ending (which I could see people finding unsatisfying.) I read this book two days ago, and I have no idea what I could read next that could compare. And that’s quite a compliment since I’m generally the type of reader who can quickly move onto the next book. The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a must-read coming of age novel that looks at the things that make us who we are and the things that were always a part of us.
“There’s nothing to know about a kiss like that before you do it. It was all action and reaction, the way her lips were salty and she tasted like root beer. The way I felt sort of dizzy the whole time. If it had been that one kiss, then it would have been jus the dare, and that would have been no different than anything we’d done before. But after that kiss, as we leaned against the crates, a yellow jacket swooping and arcing over some spilled pop, Irene kissed me again. And I hadn’t dared her to do it, but I was glad that she did.”