danforth, emily. The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Balzer+Bray, 2012. 470p. Grades 10 and up. Realistic Fiction.
On the same day that twelve year old Cameron Post shares her first kiss with another girl, her parents are killed in a car crash and her world is sent into a tailspin. Cameron spends the next several years trying to come to terms with her sexuality and life with her grandmother and extremely religious aunt. When Cameron is discovered in a compromising situation with her friend Coley, she is sent away to a boarding school that promises to “pray away the gay.” There she struggles to find true friendship and to define her life in her own terms, to become who she is rather than what everyone else wants her to be.
Thoughts- The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a dense book, packed with heavy themes and multi-layered meanings—A LOT happens (to both Cameron and the reader) in those 470 pages. danforth’s lyrical prose moves deftly between Cameron’s inner turmoil and the day to day occurrences of life, but the pacing of this novel is definitely slower than most YA literature. I was really interested in the characters and in what was going to happen to Cameron, but I still felt like it took me FOREVER to finish this book. I think a faster pace would make for a less reflective book, but I also wonder if readership will suffer because of the pacing.
It would be a shame for this book to lose readers because I felt like it is one of the best coming-of-age and coming-out stories that I’ve read in a long time. The setting (mid-1990s rural Montana) is richly detailed, the characters are multi-dimensional, and the sentence-level writing is stellar. danforth’s depiction of Cameron’s struggle to understand her sexuality is poignant, and unlike Annie On My Mind, this is a book that answers many of the questions teens might have about lesbian sex. I felt like the sex scenes were quite a bit more specific than those typically found in YA literature, but they were not pornographic or overly explicit. Also, I think that because of the complexity of the narrative, the themes, and the stylistic dynamics, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is definitely a book for older teens, so the sexual situations in the book seemed appropriate to me. My only complaint, besides the pacing, is that it almost feels like two separate books—one set in Cameron’s hometown and one at the boarding school. There is a significant tonal shift after Cameron is sent away, and the two sections of the novel feel somehow disconnected to me. I’m willing to entertain the idea that danforth is intentionally creating this disjointed feeling, perhaps because it reflects Cameron’s own feelings, but I would be interested in seeing how other readers saw it. Overall, I quite enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to older teens and adults, not only because of the content matter but also because of the overall tone, pacing, and style of the book.