On a hot, shimmery day in the Montana summer of her thirteenth year, in the space of a few hours, two events occur that shape the rest of Cameron Post’s life. First, Cam kisses her best friend Irene. The same night, her parents die in a tragic car crash. Her first, fleeting thought is relief that her parents will never know that she’s been kissing a girl. The moments become inextricably linked in her mind. The arrival of Aunt Ruth, a born-again Christian, as Cam’s guardian only further isolates her as she struggles to understand her sexuality and her loss. For a few years, Cam strikes an uneasy balance between exploring her burgeoning sexuality in secret and attending Aunt Ruth’s mega church, swimming on the town’s swim team, and otherwise pretty much fitting in. That all changes when beautiful Coley Taylor moves to town. Coley has a boyfriend, but Cam harbors a deep crush for her, and their close friendship doesn’t do anything to discourage her feelings.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is beautifully written. Author emily m. danforth deftly captures the struggles of growing up gay in small-town Montana, but the novel is also about small-town Montana itself, from the sun-baked summer days to the barn-like mega church to the movie store where the same clerk always checks you out and knows every movie you watch. The characters are complex and often sympathetic even when their actions are appalling. The plot moves slowly, but danforth’s sharp observations, lyrical writing, and frank portrayal of adolescence will hold the interest of older teens, and I imagine, many adults. This is a novel with immense cross-over appeal.
Much of The Miseducation of Cameron Post covers familiar territory for a coming-out and coming-of-age novel. Cam’s first sexual experiences, her attempts to fit in to a world that doesn’t have space for her (she has a short-lived relationship with a male friend), and her eventual outing are all common topics in LGBT YA literature. These issues are handled frankly and honestly, and their treatment alone would make this a valuable addition to the YA LGBT cannon. Happily, however, danforth also touches on a topic that’s been addressed less frequently: “treatment” of homosexuality at religious schools and camps where young people were and still are sent to be “de-gayed.” After Cameron’s outing, Aunt Ruth sends her to a wilderness school called God’s Promise to be “cured.” Although God’s Promise is a fictional place, there are real schools aimed at reforming homosexual teens in operation today. In an op-ed called “Why I Wrote About a Lesbian Teen,” danforth explains how she first learned about organizations like God’s Promise and touches on elements of her own life that inspired the novel. The novel’s final act, set at God’s Promises, explores the psychological implications of treating homosexuality as a disease, mistake, or abomination. Without this section, The Miseducation of Cameron Post would be a luminous coming-of-age story; with it, the novel also tells a rarely heard but important story. A lovely, moving addition to YA literature and a promising debut.
–Emily Calkins, currently reading Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty
You may also like:
Latest posts by Emily Calkins (see all)
- A Different Light: LGBTQ Characters on 2013 “Best Of” Lists - December 27, 2013
- BEA trendspotting: YA Crossovers - June 5, 2013
- New faces, new places: National Moving Month booklist - May 22, 2013