I first heard about this book on Malinda Lo’s Blog, which if you have never read- you should, and if you don’t know who she is- you should check that out too. Malinda Lo writes awesome YA fiction, which in and of itself is enough for me. But added bonus points are her not white and not straight characters in a world dominated by white/straight. Her books are great. I tore through Huntress in a few days and I eagerly await her next release. But I digress…
So Malinda Lo recommended The Miseducation of Cameron Post, and– well– I’ll read pretty much anything she recommends. I was not disappointed. Though the book is categorized as YA, it is equally as appealing to adults for different reasons. It is true that the “coming out” story can seem a bit ‘been there, done that’ for those of us who have a few years of outness behind us, but I think it is really important for us to remember that there are still young people living their coming out story and that they need as much help as they can get. For teens in such a position, The Miseducation of Cameron Post can be a mirror to their feelings and struggles. I grew up before #YA saves. Before It Gets Better and We Give A Damn. I just wish that books like this had been available when I was younger.
Relationship Status: BFF
Cameron is one of those characters that I just want to be best friends with. I want to hang out with her/ make out with her. Even when she is making bad decisions, I understand why. She is strong. She finds a way to cope. She screams at the character that I wanted to scream at. She finds away to make sense of it all and comes out on the other side of it the amazing woman I knew she could be. One thing I love about the way Danforth crafted Cameron’s character is that the baggage she shoulders at the very beginning when her parents die and the guilt that causes her to feel (even though I want to say ‘No! It’s not your fault!’ I understand why she feels that way) stay with her throughout the book. It’s an undertone, but it’s there. It colors everything she does, which is a very true reaction. Cameron is human. She does some stupid things, but I sit there reading and know that I would have done that exact same stupid thing and so I love her for it.
Short and Tweet:
Girl kisses girl. girl kisses wrong girl and gets outed, then sent to crazy camp 2b ‘cured’ but fights, loves and finds herself w/ courage
Friends of Friends:
Lindsey: Every baby dyke needs a Lindsey, thought perhaps a little less condescending. Lindsey is there to explain things about ‘being a lesbian,’ and as cliche as that may sound, it’s very useful to have someone who’s been out for a while as a friend when you are navigating those waters.
Coley: In high school Cameron falls for the straight girl (oh and haven’t we all) she can never never have. Coley drives Cameron to the super-conservative youth group Cameron’s Aunt makes her attend. They become good friends but for Cameron it’s more than that. This section of the book reminded me of all the friend-crushes I had. The compulsion to spend time with this person, even though you know it can’t work out well for anyone. Even while I wanted to tell Cameron to stay away, I knew just how she felt and that nothing I could say would stop her.Of course, it all blows up in her face. We know that from the beginning. And Cameron is sent to a school meant to cure her of her “sexual brokenness.”
The Gang: At the de-gay-ifying camp, Cameron finds herself surrounded by a queer community, albeit a displaced one, and makes some awesome friends. I won’t give away who they are or how it ends, but they would for sure make my Friends list.
The way Danforth handled the school was pure brilliance. It would be most people’s instinct to paint the school as a living hell and everyone in it as pure evil. She didn’t, because they aren’t. There are horrific events. There are horrific words. As a reader we want to burst through the door and take her and the others away. We want to tell them that they are perfect as they are and that they should never try to change. But there are characters who honestly want to be different. There is a teacher who we feel empathy for, even as we want to hate him. Danforth lets the emotions and reactions be complicated because that’s what the whole situation is. It’s complicated. Trying to make it simple isn’t the answer.
In the End (no spoilers)
The conclusion is as true and real as the journey Cameron takes to get there. It’s a beautiful story of coming to terms with the world around us and having faith in our own hearts and minds. The formula is familiar because we still see it around us. We recognize our own story in Cameron’s. We see a mirror of ourselves. That is why books like this are so important– because this is still happening. LGBTQ kids are still sent away to be “cured,” parents and friends still reject youth (and adults for that matter) who come out. As beautiful as it is important, The Miseducation of Cameron Post should be read by everyone who lives and loves, no matter who that may be.