Rating: 5/5 stars.
I sympathized with Cameron Post, the protagonist of this book, quickly. When her parents die in a car accident, Cameron’s first thought isn’t horror, or denial, or anger. It’s relief. Relief that they would never know she had just kissed a girl a few hours earlier. As a result of the accident Cam moves in with her conservative, super religious Aunt Ruth along with her grandmother. Life floats by smoothly enough in her small Southern town until Cam meets Coley Taylor, a fierce, beautiful, and supposedly straight cowgirl. Cam’s friendship with Coley develops into something intense and unexpected, something that could leave room for more. But when Aunt Ruth finds out about Cam and her “homosexual tendencies”, she sends her away and forces her to find out who she really is – and to confront the demons of her past and her future.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is unlike any book I’ve read before. Yes, it’s a coming-of-age story, but it’s about a gay girl growing up in Montana (in the 90’s). Emily Danforth describes the rural atmosphere perfectly, capturing the heat and the humidity as well as the cool night air. Her writing made this book work – she included several descriptions, similes, and metaphors that may have spun out of control if any other author had tried to write the book. There was one passage later on in the novel about those sticky-hand toys we all played with in the past; when I read that paragraph, I felt like Danforth somehow knew how I felt about those toys. Her writing elucidated a keen eye for detail and a control of that detail in her descriptions.
What made this book beautiful for me was its quality as a bildungsroman. Here’s a part one of the many passages that I adored:
But I didn’t have any of that faith, and I didn’t know where to get it, how to get it, or even if I wanted it right then. I felt like it could be that God had made this happen, had killed my parents, because I was living my life so wrong that I had to be punished, that I had to be made to understand how I must change, and that Ruth was right, that I had to change through God. But I also thought, at the exact same time I was thinking the other stuff, that maybe what all this meant was that there was no God, but instead only fate and the chain of events that is, for each of us, predetermined.
Cameron’s journey from a child to a young adult didn’t feel preachy, pretentious, or too prolonged. She makes mistakes, contemplates life, falls in and out of love, and basically lives like a real yet somehow extraordinary human being. She’s frank and sometimes feisty, but that voice won me over. There were themes that ran throughout the novel, but none of them took center stage over her development as a character.
My review can be summarized in two questions. Is Cameron Post a bad role model? Maybe. Is she an honest girl with a fighting heart who I wish teens would read about and emulate? Definitely.