Rummanah Aasi
  I was excited to learn about Emily m. Danforth's debut novel, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, and hoped it would be included with some of my favorite GLBT reads. While it does bring a new outlook about teens struggling with their sexuality and others dealing with their sexual orientation, it does leave something a bit more to be desired. 

Description (from Goodreads): When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief she’ll never have to tell them that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl. But that relief soon turns to heartbreak, as Cam is forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and not making waves, and Cam becomes an expert at this—especially at avoiding any questions about her sexuality.
   Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. To Cam’s surprise, she and Coley become best friends—while Cam secretly dreams of something more. Just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, her secret is exposed. Ultrareligious 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 quite sure who that is. 

Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post reads like an old GLBT books where homosexuality is equivalent to guilt, love is unrequited, and someone sadly meets their tragic end. The story focuses on Cameron Post who realizes that she is a lesbian after shoplifting and secretly kissing her best friend. Her epiphany comes on the same day that she learns of her parents dying in a horrible car crash. Relieved that she wouldn't have to face them with the "ugly truth" and simultaneously guilty for their deaths, Cameron does her best to keep her sexual orientation under raps. Cameron does a pretty good job in keeping up her facade until her feelings for Coley, who appears to be bisexual, take over and her secret is exposed to her ultra-religious aunt, who believes her niece must be saved and enrolls Cameron to a facility where she can be "de-gayed".
  Danforth does a good job in fleshing out Cameron's character and those of her family and friends. No one is simply perfect nor one dimensional. We are able to see their flaws and strengths in everything that they do. I liked how Miles City also becomes an alive character with vivid descriptions and the dialogue of its residents. The themes of friendship, sexuality, individuality, and religion provide an additional layer complexity to the story, yet despite all of these strengths I was left wanting more.
  I have three major concerns that hindered my appreciation of the book. First, I think the book could have been a lot stronger if it was trimmed 100-150 pages shorter. While I do like Cameron, her self deprecating humor and her astute observations of the world around her, I didn't think she nor her problems were that interesting to keep me engaged. I kept wondering when we could get to the God's Promise, the religious camp famous for rehabilitating homosexuals, which doesn't really appear until the last quarter of the book. To be honest, there were several passages that I skimmed because I felt Cameron was a bit too repetitive, especially with her inner struggle with wanting to leave Miles City versus staying and even more so when was in "therapy" which slows down the plot to a mere crawl. I got the impression that Cameron herself doesn't seem to think where she lives is all that bad and it is clear that she doesn't like it, but she pretty regularly lets the therapists off the hook because she knows that they really believe that homosexuality is a sin that can be cured. I found it a bit troublesome to believe that Cameron would do such a thing considering the rage that is internally developed in Cameron, which is shown to the reader. It was frustrating to watch Cameron not do anything about her situation until a terrible incident occurs and shakes her to her core.
 Second, which may be just my personal issue, is that there really isn't much of introspection in the book as I would hope there would be. I kept waiting for the moments where the characters would have these grand epiphanies or get an insight on their thoughts. I don't mean that they have to give a long sermon on what's wrong in the world, but rather have moments where they ask themselves questions and try to make sense of their world. Every time the characters seemed to open up just a little, the moment quickly ends before it fully develops, making me think I saw a mirage which, in my opinion, loses the potency of the book. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot to think about while reading the book, but it didn't have the same pay off  as you would get if you were attuned to the characters.
 Third and perhaps my biggest concern with the book is that the stand against God’s Promise, a church camp that promises to “cure” young people of their homosexuality, doesn't exist. When I finished the book, I was left wondering if Cameron really learned anything at all and if so what? What does she do next? The book abruptly ends where each character goes on to their own lives, never to be heard of again. Perhaps the author made a deliberate decision to not expand on this point and let the readers come to their own conclusion, but I don't find this book very hopeful nor consoling to young teens who are already struggling with their own sexuality. It gives off the old cliche saying "Life sucks and then you die" feeling.  And that, to me, is the most dangerous thing in this book.  
 I know professional reviewers such as Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and Publishers Weekly gave The Miseducation of Cameron Post starred reviews so it's very likely that I missed the whole point of the book. Now I'm considering if I was too critical or heck, read the same book as they did. I would suggest you take my review with a grain of salt and read other reviews before deciding to this skip this book, because in spite of my issues, I do think this book could spark a great discussion.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language and drug use throughout the book. There are also a couple of  a scenes that, while not described graphically, are pretty graphic nonetheless such as an individual hurting himself with a razor. For these reasons only, I would feel comfortable recommending this book to older YA readers (Grades 10 and up) and adults only.  

If you like this book try: This Is All by Aidan Chambers, Say the Word by Jeannine, Boyfriends with Girlfriends by Alex Sanchez. 
6 Responses
  1. I felt similarly about this book. I really liked it. Especially the portrayal of the small town. I did think that it was at least 150 pages too long. I didn't have a problem with the fact that there wasn't more judgment of the camp but I think that will be controversial.

  2. Aw, it's too bad this leaves you with a "life sucks and then you die" feeling. I'll probably skip this one for now because lol, I've got my own life sucks feeling with midterms coming up.

  3. Rebecca Says:

    I find that I agree with my fellow bloggers more often than the professionals. So thanks for the honest review. I don't know that this one is for me.

  4. Jenny Says:

    "It gives off the old cliche saying "Life sucks and then you die" feeling. And that, to me, is the most dangerous thing in this book."

    That's definitely bothersome. The whole concept of a "cure" makes me cringe, I just can't even begin to wrap my mind around that way of thinking. I would have hoped this book might have been a little more, I don't know what - hopeful maybe? A story to help people struggling with their sexuality as you said instead of something a bit more depressing. Thanks for the review Rummanah!

  5. You'd think with a topic such as sexuality, the character would do nothing but question themselves. I would have enjoyed more insight into that as well. Hmmm...

  6. Anonymous Says:

    EPE!! This book sounds like something I would get all testy about...(lol) I think Ill pass it by but thanks for sharing those thoughts.....I loved the last paragraph...;)

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