Published by Balzer + Bray on February 7th 2012
Genres: contemporary, Fiction, glbtq, young adult
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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.
This book kept cropping up during quite a few diversity topics among the blogs recently. I was finally pushed into buying it when one of my own co-bloggers recommended it.
I’m happy that I snagged this one up. I wasn’t very sure on what to expect, which made me happy. I knew that there was a “pray the gay away” plot, but overall, I wanted to get the first hand experience of Cameron and her horrible education.
I certainly hope that the three star rating doesn’t throw off anyone – this was a wonderful and quite frank depiction of the hurdles that gay teens face even in the modern world. It seems like gay rights takes two steps forward, and one step backwards, constantly. In the early 90s, the gay movement was making headway, but progree is always slow when met with religious resistance. Not only is Cameron living in the age where the civil rights for gays, but she calls one of the more conservative parts of the United States home, a home that does not accept her sexuality. Layered with the loss of her parents at a young age, and the introduction to a holier-than-thou, over the top evangelist, Cameron has her fair share of struggles that shape her personality as she grows.
Cameron knows that she has an attraction to girls from a young age, when she starts to explore kissing with her best friend, Irene. They mutually kiss, setting off a trigger of events that Cameron if left to deal with later in life. She sadly concludes that she caused her parents’ deaths, a punishment from a higher power, and later, associates this with God, when her Aunt Ruth forces her into a Christian lifestyle.
I would like to step in a moment and say how much this part cut me to the bone. It is true that when you grow up in a predominately Christian community, you are taught from a young age that bad things happen because you angered god. It took me years in my adulthood to grasp the fact that bad things just happen to everyone, and to start letting go of the guilt associated with turmoil and struggle. It robs you of healthy coping when you think someone is “getting you back”. When you get a flat tire, you start to wonder if it was because you decided to flirt with the cashier at 7-11 this morning. When you have a bad day, you are convinced that it was because you were angry at that old person driving slow in the HOV land this morning. It is draining to keep yourself “in line”, fearing the punishment of a fearful god. It enraged me that Cameron was already in the frame of mind that she was going to shoulder a lot of punishment because of her actions, actions that DID NOT WARRANT SUCH GUILT AND SHAME.
The introduction to Aunt Ruth was a great metaphorical interference of the Christian faith into the story – beautiful on the outside, traitorous on the inside. Cameron and Ruth never had a steady relationship, but I was thankful that the author didn’t have Cameron flat out hate her aunt, but instead, just highlighted how Cameron never respected her. It is a treasure to take the hate out of the equation and instead, replace it with something bigger than that: antagony. The two of them could see eye-to-eye at times, and Cameron did have some positive or neutral things to say about her aunt, which made the story richer. There are far more negative emotions that people can feel for others, and I am appreciative than an author dug deeper and took extra care to bring a better balance to a bad relationship.
The reader travels with Cameron as she grows and continues to try to make sense of who she is. The relationship with Lindsey is gruff yet appreciated, and the reader can already see that Cameron understands that there is a difference between attraction and affection. While she is attracted to Lindsey and Irene, she soon becomes infatuated with the catalyst to her imprisonment: Coley. Coley is an awesomely balanced character. The attraction to this new female character was unlike the previous romantic interests: she was the special one, and I even dare to say the “first true love.” Coley is intriguing and maddening, and just when you think you have her figured out, something comes along and changes everything. So when the climax hits, my heart just shattered for Cameron. I was devastated by the betrayal that Cameron endured, solely placing the blame on her own shoulders, because, remember, god is just flat out angry with her.
Although I loved the lead up to the “big event” in the novel, I was a bit let down that they Gay Camp/School arc didn’t start until almost halfway into the novel. Where the book drug along before, the storyline became highly interesting and engaging from this point on. I wish we had seen more of this part in the book. I loved the characters (totally an Adam fan here!) and the physiological torture that the children endured in the hopes of ridding them of their sexuality. And right when the book gets fascinating and exciting, it ends. Cameron finds closure for her parents’ deaths at the end, but as a reader, I feel like the book ended way too soon. It just cuts off at a vital part, like the story just nosedived off a cliff. I quite enjoy open endings, as seen in 1984 and The Handmaiden’s Tale, but there was still so much to give in this novel, and it just ends. ARG!
The writing was beautiful, and the author constructs the relationships that define and destroy Cameron, but some of the more interesting parts of the book suffered from scenes that really could have been cut away. I love that the book didn’t have the entire “true love wins!” ending, and instead, closed with a character coming to terms with herself and her identity. In a way I feel someone sad that romance didn’t win in a GLTB novel, but on the other hand, it sums up perfectly that the gay community has the fight for their civil rights and identity. Even though this book has a strong anti-religion vibe, there is no attacks, just discussion points on using religion as a weapon.