The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
From Goodreads: 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 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, 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 quite sure who that is.
Trigger warning for self-harm, attempted suicide and homophobia.
Wow, this was an intense read. I didn’t really know anything about the book but was drawn by the cover on the Netgalley catalogue and decided to request it from Penguin. The description intrigued me, and I was curious to see if the story would head in the direction I thought it would.
And it did, but I am pleased that it did because Danforth has approached this narrative in a really great way. Also, just because a book is hard to read, doesn’t mean that it isn’t good. The Miseducation… was very much one of those books. The book starts out very heavy, with the death of Cameron’s parents, and it doesn’t really let up from there. I liked hearing about her gradual exploration of her sexuality, and I enjoyed that the book didn’t fall into that YA trope of first love forever, but I still found a lot of the reactions of other people in the story and the element of secrecy Cameron had to maintain to have these relationships incredibly heartbreaking. It’s hard to think, that in this so-called enlightened day and age, people can still treat homosexuality in this way. The backdrop for this book is very
One thing I did really like about this book is how it discusses religion. There’s a whole host of religious characters in this novel, and each character is nuanced outside of their religion too, which adds a lot of depth and realism. Aunt Ruth, for example, is super-conservative and very faithful to her ‘born again’ beliefs, but she’s also a real person, with real hobbies, real flaws and real feelings. I almost felt bad for her when Cameron lashes out. That’s not to say I agree with a lot of the actions Ruth takes in this novel, and in fact I feel that a lot of what she does it utterly unconscionable, but Danforth has created her in multilayered way. And I really liked that. Because I was very worried that this book would fall into the trap of making the Christian characters almost caricatures of themselves and turning them into the villains of the novel. But The Miseducation… didn’t do that. Sure, it’s really hard at times to like characters like Ruth or Coley’s brother or anyone else who forces Cameron to seek ‘help’ to fight the so-called sin of homosexuality, but then they’re also shown in a light which at least shows you they believe they’re doing it from a good place. Which is sad and terrifying really. To contrast this, the novel also shows us some Christian characters who accept LGBTQ people with open arms. Again, I thought this was nice and realistic.
But yes, this book was utterly heartbreaking in the way Cameron is both treated, and comes to think of herself. I wanted to wrap her in a hug when she starts to wonder if her first kiss with another girl led to God killing her parents to punish her. It was just so sad. Other characters also go through this later in the book and some things happen [no spoilers] which are incredibly shocking, not only for their graphicness but also for the way it shows how some people in the LGBTQ community struggle to accept themselves, particularly when religion and family are thrown into the mix. Obviously again, this is a very hard thing to read and as I’ve mentioned there are some big trigger warnings to consider if you’re not sure this will be something you want to read.
I think, what truly confused me was the way homosexuality was not only treated as a sin, but as a disease too. I felt a lot of second-hand frustration for Cameron when she is forced to abide by Ruth’s beliefs and rules, despite having done nothing but be herself. And there were times when I wanted to cry, such as when Cameron is expected to believe that things like her shoplifting and male-majority friendship groups are ’causes’ of her ‘problem.’ It’s just really so ridiculous that it almost doesn’t seem possible.
If there was one flaw in this book, it’s the ending. Again, I don’t want to spoil anything, but the ending was so sudden and stark that I tried to flip pages on my kindle to find the rest of the story. It felt really sudden and blunt and left me a bit disappointed. It could have done with another chapter or so, just to polish it off properly, but then I have read since finishing the book that the author planned on writing more of the story, so maybe we’ll get to see what happens in another book. I still feel it was a bit of an underwhelming ending, even if we do get a follow-up, but it’s a small flaw in an otherwise pretty great book.
I’m giving The Miseducation of Cameron Post an 8/10 stars. I loved how realistic and complex the characters were, even the ones we were meant to dislike and as hard as the book was to read, it was definitely worth it. The ending definitely could have done with more work on it, but otherwise I highly recommend it if you’re willing to pick up a YA that deals with some intense and difficult subject matters.
The novel is released by Penguin books on 3rd August in the UK and will soon be a movie starring Chloe Grace Moretz. I’ve also seen that Amazon has copies of the book available for pre-order with rainbow flag sprayed edges, so if you plan to grab a copy, that edition looks amazing.
Has anyone already read this book? If you have or plan to, let me know in the comments section below. I love to hear your thoughts 😀