Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

Monday, May 6, 2013 9:00 AM
Title: The Miseducation of Cameron Post 
Author: Emily M. Danforth
Published: February 7, 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Pages: 354
Source: Purchased
Rating: 4 stars
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“I felt all the ways in which this world seemed so, so enormous--the height of the trees, the hush and tick of the forest, the shift of the sunlight and shadows--but also so, so removed.”
― Emily M. Danforth, The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Synopsis
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. (Goodreads)
My Thoughts
I bought The Miseducation of Cameron Post entirely on a whim. My friend Amanda told me it was a Kindle monthly deal (she's always keeping me updated on those), and after skimming some positive reviews, I figured, what the hell?, and added it to a long, long list of TBR books. So, when I decided to read it the other day, I was not fully prepared for this challenging book. I really enjoyed The Miseducation of Cameron Post, but I will warn you that it's an intense, emotional read.

While I have struggled with finding out what I want throughout the years, learning new things about myself all the time, I have never suffered to the extent Cameron does in The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Cameron Post finds out that her parents died in a car accident only hours after she kissed her best friend, who just happens to be a girl. Cameron thinks that her actions, which she believes to be corrupt and abnormal, are responsible for her parents' demise. She fears that their deaths are some divine punishment for her behavior. She is also wracked with guilt when her initial reaction to the horrible news is relief that her parents will never find out about her kissing a girl. Things only go downhill from there. Cameron struggles with her sexual identity in a heavily religious community that believes homosexuality is a sickness and a sin. Even her Aunt Ruth, who becomes Cameron's guardian, and her grandmother are intolerant of same-sex relations, and Cameron is terrified that her secret will be discovered.

Cameron is a spitfire, and I absolutely loved her. She doesn't have it easy, far from it, but she never loses her sense of self. Even when she's sent to a religious institution to be "cured" of her homosexuality, she's still Cameron, the feisty, snarky Cam the reader comes to know so well. I really felt for her. Her family, her first love, and just everyone seems to be conspiring against her. They are uncomfortable with her attraction to girls, so they turn it into a disease, something that needs to be "fixed" about her. I was legitimately repulsed by God's Promise, this religious school that provides "conversion therapy" and encourages its "disciples" to free themselves of their sinful behavior by finding God. Everyone thinks they know what is best for Cameron, but they are forcing her to be someone other than herself, and it was painful to witness her struggles.

What I really loved about The Miseducation of Cameron Post is that all of the characters were 3-dimensional. Every single one of them was believable. I felt like I could just reach out and touch them, Cameron especially. After losing her parents, Cam loses herself in movies, smoking pot, and shoplifting small items from random places. These actions are indicative of her emotional turmoil, but her aunt and grandmother remain oblivious. They are too caught up in other things to notice any differences in Cameron's behavior, and when Cam's sexual orientation is outed, they treat her like she's contagious. I wanted to hate Aunt Ruth, Reverend Rick, Lydia, and everyone who tried to change Cameron, but instead, I found myself pitying them. They actually believed that they were doing the right thing for Cameron and the others, not realizing that God's Promise is hurting these kids. They want to "straighten out" their charges and enforce restrictive gender roles. But their attempts to liberate these adolescents from sin stem from their own insecurities and self-doubts. They need the reassurance that a neat categorization of female vs male provides, and this is why I felt sorry for them when I expected to despise them. And despite their narrow-mindedness, Danforth still portrays them as caring and sympathetic individuals. They may not make the right choices for Cameron, but they do genuinely care for her which is something.

I felt like Danforth couldn't have chosen a better setting for The Miseducation of Cameron Post than the late 80s and early 90s. I loved all the 80s and 90s movies, music and pop culture references. I may have only been a toddler in 1992 and 1993, but this book still made me nostalgic for the 90s and VHS tapes and I listened to a lot of Tom Petty after reading it (Cameron and Coley love Petty).

If there was one issue I had with The Miseducation of Cameron Post, it was that I felt like Cameron's loss of her parents was overlooked for most of the book. The ending does show Cam's coming to terms with her parents' death, but up until that point, the main focus was on Cam not losing sight of herself despite her shame and then later Promise's attempts to change her. I wanted to see a stronger connection between Cameron's struggles and the absence of her parents. I couldn't help but wonder, like Cam, how events would have played out differently if her parents had survived. Would she still have ended up at Promise? Would she be more accepting of herself? Would there have even been a story to tell?

The Miseducation of Cameron Post was not an easy read, but I'm happy I read it. It was a beautifully written coming of age story, and by sharing in her life experiences from age 12 to 17, I felt like I really connected with Cam. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a poignant, engaging story of a girl brave enough to find her own place in the world.




10 comments:

  1. Absolutely WONDERFUL review. I couldn't bring myself to write abou this one. (I took a review writing break and this was one of my last reads of the year... I bought it in March and read it in December aka TOO LONG.)

    I love the questions you raise about Cam's parents and what would have happened if they ha survived. One issue I had with the book was the ending. After spending so many years with Cam and going through such turmoil with her, I would have liked something more or something less open-ended.

    Emily is such a fantastic writer, and I am so looking forward to her new work! She was lovely to meet in person too when I was a bumbling nervous person. (I kept talking about how great the cover of the book was! It's true. But the insides are so much better. haha)

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    1. Thanks Estelle! That is so neat that you got to meet her! I am definitely going to keep my eye out for more by her in the future because this book was so wonderful inside and out, just like you said.

      I was a little confused by the ending. I was trying to understand the message behind it, and it definitely kept me thinking long after I finished. Well, I just finished it yesterday, but I believe I will continue to wonder about this. But I can see where you're coming from. It wasn't the ending I was expecting at all.

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  2. Woot! So glad you enjoyed this, Courtney! I can't wait to read it myself, especially as it's one of the few LGBT novels out there in YA. I know A.S. King's Ask the Passengers is also popular, but it seems to have received more mixed reviews than this, so I'm starting with this one...soon! Great review!(:

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    1. I really want to read Ask the Passengers sometime soon. There are just not enough LGBT YA novels, and I'm so glad I got to read this one because it was fantastic. Another one I want to read is Gone Gone Gone so I can give Moskowitz another try. I hope you enjoy this one, and I look forward to reading your review! Thanks Keertana! :D

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  3. Aw yay I'm so glad that you ended up ending The Miseducation. I'm sure I will when I finally get around to reading it. I think what makes me most interested in this book is how you found the characters to be so realistic that even those you wanted to hate, you ended up pitying and understanding to some degree. That's the mark of good characterization, in my opinion. I can't wait to read and discuss this with you!

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    1. Same here! I really want to hear what you think about this book. And yes, the characterization was really well-done. I was impressed.

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  4. When I am ready and in the right mind set for a deep book I will chose this one. I haven't heard of this before today but it sounds really good. A well done story about a teenager that is discovering who she is and how to be the person she wants to be sounds like a very promising premise.

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    1. That's a good call. You definitely need to be in the right mood for this book or it might be difficult to get through. i hope you enjoy it when you do read it, Kay! :)

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  5. So, so glad you loved this! I really felt for Cam and enjoed her story at the same time

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    1. Yeah, Cam went through so much. Life just wasn't easy for her, but I admired her ability to bounce back. It was a lovely story. :D

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