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.
Continuing my September reading dedication month to my lovely cousin (and today is her birthday so this post had to come today) with The Miseducation of Cameron Post.
This is a deep novel that tackles some hard hitting issues, but the tone of the book is light and completely relatable. No matter whether you are within the LGBTQ+ community or straight, I think pretty much everyone can identify with the floundering lack of identity you experience from about age twelve through… well, let’s be real, sometimes it never really ends. But that’s exactly where Cameron Post finds herself when her best frienemy Irene kisses her during the summer when she’s twelve. Something they are doing when her parents tragically die in a car accident which makes the discomfort Cameron feels at kissing Irene melt into something like relief that her parents will never know because she worries about their reaction.
And then the relief transforms to guilt because she should NOT be having those thoughts about her parent’s deaths.
We follow along as Cam basically treads water in her life (which is a very ironic euphemism when you know that Cam is a champion swimmer and eventually becomes a life guard) trying to figure out how to navigate as an orphan cared for by her crime-show obsessed grandmother and devoutly religious aunt. A girl who sometimes makes out with other girls… but also kisses guys. Although the guys are much less enjoyable than than the girls.
Her life is pretty much in a static place until she meets Coley Taylor and falls in love. Their friendship leads to experimenting for both of them and taking things much farther than friendship. Unfortunately one night this culminates in going almost all the way (I say almost because frankly if BOTH parties aren’t mutually satisfied…) after Coley moves into her new apartment in town to be closer to school. It’s unfortunate because Coley’s older brother and some of his buddies choose that moment to bust in and nearly catch Coley and Cam in the act. They smooth it all over and Cam leaves not really thinking much about it.
That is until Coley’s older brother Ty needles Coley into admitting everything and then confessing it all to her mother who then takes it to their pastor and Cam’s Aunt Ruth. This part made me SHAKE with rage because Coley, who was not only a consenting party, but an active and enthusiastic participant, blamed Cam for everything. Calling her the “aggressor” in the situation.
Because of that label, Cam (not Coley, another point of rage for me) is sent away to a conversion camp/school to learn to control her sinful impulses. Listen, if your heart wasn’t already breaking for Cameron before this happened, it certainly would be at this point. Not only was she betrayed by the girl she loved, she was forced into exile with a group that made her question her existence and her sanity.
Something happens to another one of the teenagers at Promise that I think should definitely come with a trigger warning, but it feels so real and authentic and genuine I was grateful to see it there.
For me, much of this story was open to interpretation. Cam never specifies her sexual identity and that’s okay because maybe even she doesn’t have full ownership of it. She’s only 17 at the end of the book, after all. It’s okay to not know everything.
By far my favorite character in this book is Adam. He is… amazing. On many levels.
And a micro character named Dane might have completely won my heart BUT you guys also know I have a thing for broken boys.
The story is unique, gripping, and at times heartbreaking… unfortunately some of the emotion is lost in the excess of words. If I were beta reading this, I’d have requested probably at least 1/3 be cut. An example: The festival is important to the story, but the history of it? Yeah, very much not important. Little details like that were over explained and pulled me out of the depth of the story which makes me a wee bit of a grumpy reader.
I’d highly recommend The Miseducation of Cameron Post with the caveat that you need to be prepared to take your time reading and have a very upfront content warning about certain parts.
**This is also a movie, but I can’t comment on the accuracy of the movie to the book or compare the two as I didn’t watch the movie.**