June 26, 2013

Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post

By: Emily M. Danforth
Published: February 2012 by Balzer + Bray
Format: Hardback, 470 pages
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
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“...and there I was sending all the wrong signals to the right people in the wrong ways. Again, again, again.”

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, 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 exactly sure who that is.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a stunning and unforgettable literary debut about discovering who you are and finding the courage to live life according to your own rules.

Rating: 3.5/5

I was in a literary mood when I picked this up and due to my crazy busy work life, it's taken me a month to read it. My opinions are mixed. On one hand, I very much enjoyed it. I can think back on certain scenes and descriptions and moments where I think, Oh, I loved that bit! But on the other hand, I found most of it just okay for me and couldn't decide if I connected with Cameron enough.

The setting was wonderfully written. Danforth set the tone that threw me into this small town. As someone who's only been in a small town a few times in my life for no more than a day or an hour, I really needed the description to get me into it. And as someone who wasn't even born at the start of this book, the fact that I could so easily fall into this time period like I had lived in it was fantastic.

Danforth's writing was great. I found it very easy to follow and read. I did begin to skim at times when I felt a scene or narration was too long, but Danforth always reeled me back in rather quickly. My main problem with her work was her characterization. The major-minor characters, I felt, were great and very developed at first, but many of the characters we were introduced to later I just couldn't connect with. Some I did, like Jane, but with some others, you could tell me their name and I probably couldn't tell you much about them.

I liked Cameron. Just liked her all right. Some moments, I thought she was great and Danforth did well with her characterization and narrative, but other moments I felt she was dull and just couldn't connect with her or what was going on in her mind or what was going on around her. That's not to be confused with her unlikeableness (that's totally not a word, is it?) at times. She was, indeed, unlikeable sometimes. BUT. I liked those bits. It was realistic. It reminded me of her age and of her inner anger and pain from losing her parents and from the feelings she dealt with. Cameron was also very relatable--I think for anyone reading. Boy, girl, straight, gay, bi, anything. She had a lot of traits and feelings that I'm sure people of all ages can relate to on some level.

As for the story itself, I loved it. I thought, in all honesty, that it would be another, "Oh no, I'm gay, let me come to terms with it and let me tell you how much of a problem it is for everyone and you know, the typical." Especially with the intensity of the hardcore Christians and the "You're sinning, we're going to cure you" thing. I was worried this would be just another coming-of-age story about a gay kid in a town/school where it's not okay to be gay.

But I never felt like I was reading something overdone. It was a very realistic story of 1980s/1990s small town Montana, where most people think homosexuality is a sin, with a girl who happens to be gay. A story that had things in common with others but that felt fresh and very real. We see Cameron transition into accepting herself as she ages from a twelve-year-old who thinks she caused her parents' accident by kissing a girl to a young woman who knows who she is and isn't going to let anyone change her. She has inner conflicts--her self-consciousness, her realistic fear of others finding out her secret, etc.--but they're more complex and less woe is me, I hate myself, this is wrong, like I genuinely expected. Danforth dealt with all aspects of this story very, very well.

I thought about giving this four stars--because I did very much enjoy it and once I was able to sit down, I read it in one setting--but the ending just didn't give me any satisfaction. Where the rest of the story didn't feel typical, the ending did. It seemed like the kind of ending you'd only half expect. I didn't really get any closure with Cameron. It was a sweet scene, don't get me wrong, but...I don't know. I just wanted more from it. More from Cameron and her relationship with her surviving family and some of her friends. More of Cameron's feelings. I just didn't get enough out of it.

Overall, though, I did very much like this. While I had my annoyances, I think it has tons of brilliant aspects that people should read. Definitely give it a shot, especially if you like literary reads.