31 August 2011

Book (P)Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post

This was a book that I *wanted* to like far more than I actually did. I'm a bookseller and I was hoping that this might be the contemporary title to hand to girls instead of (or in addition to) My Most Excellent Year or Will Grayson, Will Grayson, both of which are wonderful novels that feature boys who come out.

Summary (with some spoilers, be forewarned, and in my own words): One Montana summer day, Cameron and her best friend Irene stave off boredom by shoplifting and making out with each other; later that night, Cameron learns that both of her parents died in a car crash and her first thought is one of relief for not getting caught for either of those activities. Guilt kicks in, her religious Aunt Ruth moves in to take care of her, and Irene leaves for boarding school back East. Mostly Cameron fills her time with swim team and hanging out with a gang of boys drinking and smoking pot and doing mildly destructive things, but now she's also involved with a youth group in an ultra-conservative megachurch of Aunt Ruth's choosing. Then drop-dead gorgeous cowgirl Coley comes to town and Cameron falls in love with her; eventually they start making out every chance they get, which builds to one scene in particular, after which Coley reports Cameron to their pastor as an instigator and manipulator of unnatural sexual activity. Aunt Ruth sends Cameron away to a conservative Christian school where they basically try to pray the gay out of her. She loses her right to privacy and endures daily one-on-one sessions (later, group sessions) with the quasi-therapists at the school, but luckily she falls in with Jane and Adam who know how to talk the talk with their teachers without actually giving in to the brainwashing sessions. Something bad happens to one of the students. Then Cameron, Jane, and Adam escape. End of story. We have no actual idea of what happens to them after that point.

One of my biggest problem with this book is that I think it's overwritten to the tune of about 150 pages. Cameron just wasn't an interesting enough character and her "issues" just not compelling enough to draw out her story that much. Her own boredom living in a small Montana town quickly becomes the reader's boredom. I did a ton of skimming. I thought that the dialogue itself was pretty good, as were the passages of teen interactions. But I think the author does a disservice to her readers for not being more condemning of schools like the one to which Cameron was exiled. Not to mention the fact that Cameron herself doesn't seem to think that the place is all that bad. No, she doesn't like it, but she pretty regularly lets the therapists off the hook because she knows that they really *believe* that gayness is a sin that can be cured, and that didn't make sense to me considering the rage that Cameron is occasionally described as having but rarely shown to the reader.

A smaller, more technical issue that I have with this book is that the publisher rates it for readers 14 and up, which is a pretty tough sell considering the very widespread drug use (true, it's "only" pot) and a couple of scenes that, while not described graphically, are pretty graphic nonetheless (in one of them, a distraught boy attempts to slash off his penis with a razor and then pours bleach on himself). Not many parents or librarians (or booksellers like me) will feel confident putting this book into the hands of 14 year olds, I suspect.

But my biggest concern with this novel is that it doesn't make it clear enough that schools like the one Cameron is sent away to are unacceptable, full stop, no exceptions. And that, to me, is the most dangerous thing in this book.

This book will be published by Balzer & Bray, a division of HarperCollins, in early 2012.  My store received a large box of ARCs, compliments of our sales rep, Anne DeCourcey.  


  1. Love your reviews and order just about everything from my local library....keep it up. hcb

  2. Love the "Eat, Sleep, Read" t-shirts. Everyone in my book club wants one after seeing mine at our last meeting.

  3. The premise of this sounds really interesting, but like you, I would want to see some pretty heavy condemnation of the school she is sent to. I'll most likely read this out of curiosity anyway, but it's good to be a bit forewarned about some of the flaws.


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