The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Themes: YA contemporary, LGBTQIA+, coming-of-age, conversion therapy
My Rating: ★★★
Summary: When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.
But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is soon forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both. Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship — one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultra-religious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to ‘fix’ her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self — even if she’s not exactly sure who that is.
My Review: A friend loaned me this book, and her enthusiasm for the book was infectious, but I was also a little apprehensive because of things I had heard prior to her vehement recommendation (mainly that it was incredibly and unnecessarily long). I ended up having about the exact feelings I was expecting.
This book is very important, and is not afraid to speak about the hard stuff. Emily M. Danforth does not shy away from the difficult things that can come along with being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. This book tackles a lot of things that I feel like aren’t really talked about as much today, at least not in as much detail. It was really eye-opening to have this kind of exposure to things that happened in the past, and are still going on today. It can be sickening and horrific, but nonetheless it must be remembered and acknowledged, and this book ensures that it is.
Going along with this thread, I loved the way that Danforth explored the situation from almost every character’s point of view throughout the novel. Though we only ever read from the point-of-view of Cameron, we get to see a lot of the perspectives of the side characters as well. Not only did this give us multiple perspectives on Cameron’s situation, but it also showed that more people are affected than just those in the camp. I particularly liked the inclusion of characters like Adam Red Eagle, and the acknowledgement that sexuality and gender aren’t black and white. I also thought it was interesting to see the perspectives of those on the other side, the ones who have been brain-washed and corrupted by the toxic society that surrounds them. While I never sympathized with them, I could certainly understand and see why they made certain choices; I loved that Danforth never portrayed them as evil, but as people who were just trying to do the things they felt were right.
Danforth’s writing is beautiful, poetic, and powerful. There was never really a “dull” moment in terms of the writing style; at times this book could feel a bit description-heavy, but the language was rich and overall the book was very well-written. I could see the setting and the characters very clearly in my head, and that’s something I really appreciate in a book. One thought that I had consistently while reading this book is “this would make an amazing movie, maybe (probably) even better than the book.” And it is! As of now it’s set to become a film starring Chloe Grace Moretz and Sasha Lane, and I can say that I am very excited to see how this story translates from page to screen.
My main problem with this book was the length. This book is 470 pages, which is a pretty significant chunk of pages for the typical YA contemporary. A lot of the information in the first 2 parts of the book felt important, but not really necessary to the overall point and focus of the novel. If the summary of the novel had been more of a focus on her coming-of-age and growing up, then the first two parts of the novel would have been a lot more relevant. However, the main focus of this novel (according to the summary) was supposed to be on the conversion camp that Cameron gets sent to, but this only comes up nearly 300 pages into the book. While everything leading up to this point in the novel was well-written and interesting, I found myself chewing at the reins, becoming more and more anxious to just get it over with already. I knew what was coming, but it just wasn’t happening, and I found myself starting to skim through bits to get to the action, and I wish there was more of a focus on the camp and the relationships she formed while there. I ended the book feeling like there just wasn’t quite enough resolution in regards to anyone other than Cameron, since we’d had so much focus on others’ stories as well.
I did enjoy this book, but I felt that there was too much focus on the “coming-of-age” aspect for too much of the book. If you’re going to pitch a book as depicting the horrors of conversion therapy, then put that plot point in more than 1/3 of the story. Much of this story, while entertaining and well-written, seemed irrelevant, and made the book feel too long. There was just too much build up, and not enough focus on the actual events. Overall, I would recommend this book, because I definitely feel like it’s a very important book to read, but I feel like one should go into it expecting more about her life in general, particularly leading up to the camp.