The Miseducation of Cameron Post was on quite a few banned books list so it immediately attracted my attention (I love me some banned books!).
This story takes place in the early 1990’s follows a young lesbian teen named Cameron Post whose parents are suddenly killed in a car crash. As it turns out, Cameron, who was 12 years old at the time, had been kissing a girl — her friend Irene— hours before her parent’s death. So she ending up linking these two events in her mind creating some major guilt and in her preadolescent mind, wonders whether the death of her parents just might be God’s way of punishing her for her forbidden kiss.
And all this takes place right off the bat in the story.
So Cam is then sent off to live with her grandmother and her ultra-conservative and ultra-religious Aunt Ruth in Miles City, Montana. As Cameron steps into her teenage years, she comes to accept that she is a lesbian and makes another gay friend (ahem…a friend with benefits), Lindsey who teaches her the “gay” ropes and who lovingly refers to Cam as a baby dyke, which always gave me a chuckle
So I thought this was going to be sort of a coming-of-age tale of a young lesbian girl figuring out who she is.
But then the story took quite a surprising and disturbing turn — Cameron is outed to her Auth Ruth, and as a result, things don’t end up too well for our heroine, as Aunt Ruth takes drastic action, intent on “fixing” her niece. She sends to her God’s Promise church camp, one of those “pray away the gay” compounds.
And our story gets quite interesting from there.
WHAT I LIKED
I loved the character of Cameron as she was quite the firecracker. One author’s blurb on the back of the book said “If Holden Caulfield had been a gay girl from Montana, this is the story he might have told” — and I definitely have to agree, given that I just read Catcher in the Rye and Holden is still fresh in my mind.
Like Holden, Cameron was so realistically portrayed and she felt so real to me that she almost jumped off the page as I read about her adventures…and misadventures.
So though she did have somewhat of a strong ego and independent streak, it was these qualities which allowed her to reject the judgment of those authority figures in her life and maintain her self-esteem through it all.
This was especially true when she realizes that often, the people who are supposedly in charge really don’t have a clue about what they’re doing and are just winging it as they go along. That’s pretty much adulthood in a nutshell.
Now while Cameron certainly can be snarky at times, she’s also intelligent, strong, surprisingly adaptable and brave, and she’s able to maneuver through any shit storm that comes her way.
There really is so much to like about this story. I loved the vivid, detailed descriptions and the author brought the location to life. The storyline was also gripping with wonderfully snappy dialog and unique characters that were not clichés or cardboard cutouts, with all of this leading to a marvelously done story.
And speaking of the characters, I also enjoyed the varied cast of secondary characters, most of which were nicely developed and each relevant in their own way to the plot.
Now to the author’s credit, she doesn’t portray the Christians in this story has mean-spirited hateful bigots. In fact, there weren’t any real villains in the story per se. The counselors like Rick and Lydia, and even Cameron’s Aunt Ruth, all felt that they were doing the right thing and believed that what they were doing was in Cameron’s ultimate best interest (though I have to say that I despised Aunt Ruth).
Still, in general, I have a difficult time reading stories about these ”gay conversion therapy” camps whose goal it was to cure teen girls and boys of homosexuality. Thankfully, this type of therapy seen these days as a form of child abuse and these types of institutions are on the decline, at least to my understanding.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
I felt that the book was a little on the long side. I remember thinking a couple of times, “this is really dragging” so in this way, it could have used a little snipping here and there.
I also was not a fan of the ending. You know, if you’re one of those folks who likes things nicely tied up at the end, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. In fact, I found the ending rather abrupt. It’s not that it ended on a cliffhanger or anything – there just didn’t seem to be a whole lot of resolution at the story’s finale.
For instance, I would have loved to find out how Cam got on about six months down the road. I also would have loved to see how Cam’s future relationship with Ruth, her Grandma, or even Coley developed. I think a nice little Epilogue of 20 pages or so would have been lovely, maybe with a little glimpse into Cam’s future. I admit that I’m somewhat of a closure junkie so a little more resolution would have been nice.
I should also mention that though this is classified as a Young Adult novel, there is drinking, drug use, shoplifting, and blatant sexual situations, elements which some people might not like to see in their YA books.
This book was quite an emotional roller coaster ride and there are some dark moments in the story that are challenging to get through.
Your heart can’t help but break for Cam as she struggled to make the best out of a bad situation — and then there’s Mark’s story, which is also quite disturbing and heart-wrenching.
That being said, this isn’t a fluffy YA book at all; rather, it deals with some serious topics such as betrayal, love, loss, self-acceptance, religion and sexual confusion. I don’t mean to imply that this is a grim story because it’s not — it definitely has its fun, light and humorous elements as well.
In summary, I absolutely loved this story, and while it was heartbreaking in places, it was also a beautiful coming-of-age story with a riveting plot, a strong narrative and compelling, well-fleshed out characters, especially Cameron, whom I bonded with right from the get-go. I found the courage and adaptability Cam shows throughout the novel to be praiseworthy and impressive.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post was an amazing book, and I’m so glad that it crossed my path, though it did leave me wanting more at the end of it all. I ended up giving this novel 4 stars.