Published by Balzer + Bray on 2/7/2012
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult
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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.
I wanted to fill this review with smart-ass memes of Katy Perry kissing Justin Bieber and play off the “I Kissed A Girl” song, but as I tried to do this and write the review in a light and off-hand way, I realized that The Miseducation of Cameron Post deserves more than that from me. Miseducation is a broad and defiant look into what it takes for a teenager to come into their own – especially when they are gay. It is beautiful and poignant, and to put it simply, it’s become a Bawdy Favorite. Danforth’s writing is fluid and in some instances, dreamy, pulling you into the story one word at a time, until you are surely gripped by the pages, a movie playing behind your eyes.
Cameron’s world changes in so many ways one day when she kisses her best friend, Irene. And then does it again, only to have their sleepover interrupted by the tragic news that her parents have died in a car accident on their way home from Quake Lake. Her first thought: thank god they didn’t find out I kissed a girl. And so begins the story of Cameron Post and her journey to finding herself, despite – and in spite of – the obstacles in her path: her conservative Aunt Ruth, Coley Taylor, Promise (a de-gaying boarding school for youth), and the other influences in her life.
Miseducation is unapologetic and honest. It’s a young adult novel, but it’s for mature teenagers and audiences, because the themes addressed inside these delicious, glorious pages are not for the weak or faint of heart. It’s already a tough job to grow up, but when you are radically “different,” especially in the late 80s and early 90s, when HIV/AIDS is considered an epidemic and the word gay is still taboo, it’s especially difficult to find yourself and figure out YOU. Cameron is a (lackadaisical &) defiant sort of character, determined that even though others see a path for her, she won’t take it. She’d rather kiss girls in abandoned hospitals or smoke weed with her best guy friend, Jaimie. She’s also not an “I’m a lesbian, hear me roar” type of girl, either. Instead, she questions herself, knowing that how she is “supposed” to feel isn’t how she does feel, so how does she reconcile that? She’s not openly destructive, she’s not depressed or a cutter. She just wants to be happy and she doesn’t want to deny who she really is, but at the same time, she wants to please the people who love her.
Her friend, Coley Taylor, changes everything, but I really don’t want to put too much emphasis on her as a character. I didn’t feel strongly for her one way or another, other than she is a catalyst for a lot of Big Things happening and transitioning the story. I did find scenes between Cameron and Coley hot, but more importantly, it didn’t matter that it happens between two girls. It could have been a girl and a boy, and it would have felt just as innocent to me, in the way that youth exploring their sexuality can be.
So many great and sad things, and enraging things, happen in Miseducation, and it’s saddening to know that a lot of this happens in real life to real people. I am not going to go into any more of the story, because there are so many horrid and wonderful things throughout the multiple years that span Cameron’s life in the novel, and they should be left as surprises to the reader.
Religion plays a large role in Miseducation, but it doesn’t feel overly preachy and heavy-handed. It’s more along the lines of Cameron trying to determine for herself where exactly God and sin fit in with her life, because she doesn’t feel like she’s sinning, even if her Aunt Ruth and those running Promise tell her so. There’s also the whole parents-have-died thing, and having to face the possibility of what comes after death. As you know, religion is complicated.
I admit I was frustrated with the ending. I wanted to know more about the future for these characters I grew to love, what becomes of them, rather than let my imagination run wild. I will, however, beg you to read it, because this review….it’s a cop out. It doesn’t do such great literature justice. Not in any way.
How could I pretend to be a victim when I was so willing to sin?
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