The afternoon my parents died I was out shoplifting with Irene Klauson.
Synopsis: In the summer of 1989, twelve-year-old Cameron Post kissed her bestThe afternoon my parents died I was out shoplifting with Irene Klauson.
Synopsis: In the summer of 1989, twelve-year-old Cameron Post kissed her best friend, Irene. The next day, her parents died in a car accident. For Cameron, the two events would be forever linked, not that she could explain that to her born-again Aunt Ruth, who moves into Cameron's house in Miles City, Montana to become her guardian. Cam knows enough not to talk about her attraction to other girls, let alone how she spends her time with them in the secrecy of haylofts and under the dock at the lake. But during the summer after her first year of high school, just when it seems that the girl she has fallen for might become more than a friend, her aunt finds out. Cam is packed off to God's Promise, a "Christian School & Center for Healing" for an indeterminate stay. While the staff there tries to help her "break free from the bonds of sexual sin and confusion", Cam realizes she risks losing herself before even finding out who that really is.
Review: This is a beautifully written book. Danforth has the sort of polished style I expect from graduates of MFA Fiction programs (and she does hold an MFA in Fiction from the University of Montana, along with a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln). This is both a blessing and a curse, because it produces a feeling of distance between the reader and the narrator, despite the first-person voice, and between the narrator and the events. Maybe because Cam is clearly telling her story from some point in the future, it lacks immediacy.
Then, there is the setting. The rich description and attention to detail bring Miles City into clear focus, engaging all the senses. The location isn't the only aspect of the setting, though. Equally important is the time period. The book is set two decades ago, when a teenager like Cam had to depend on letters through the postal service, access to the family phone, and the availability of movies for rent to pop into her VCR. Her world is limited by the boundaries of her small town and the people who live in it. The realistic portrayal of both the place and the time add to the feeling of distance from the events. It is all too easy to read this book and think, "Oh, but that was 20 years ago. That wouldn't happen now." But it could and it does, as Danforth reports in an author's note at the front of the book. (At least, at the front of the Advance Reader Copy; I don't know if it will appear in the final version.)
Cameron comes to terms with the wrong done to her by recognizing that these are deeply held convictions of people who truly believe they are working in her best interest, a realization that would seem to come with the perspective of time passed, and she refuses to outright condemn the sort of program that God's Promise represents. Instead, she allows the reader to live through her experience, letting him form an opinion based on life on the inside of the program, the side its supporters rarely (if ever) really see.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is an expertly crafted work, a fine example of Literary Fiction that happens to feature a lesbian teenager as its protagonist. And that is a wonderful thing, a fantastic thing. I would love to see more literary fiction with queer characters. After all, must a protagonist be a straight white male for the work to be one that "explores universal themes of truths and/or humanity in general" or, perhaps more significantly, "broadens the reader's impressions of the human experience"?
I would also love to see more lesbian YA romance.
When it comes to this book, my negative feelings aren't really about the book at all. They are about the marketing of this book as a teen title, when, really, it feels like an adult novel featuring a teen protagonist. The book itself is lovely. I worry, though, that it will have trouble finding readers who will enjoy the style enough to finish the story and reach the absolutely perfect ending.
Final Word: An expertly crafted literary coming-of-age tale set in Big Sky country.
Source: ARC provided by the publisher at ALA Midwinter 2012....more
In 2008, Jen is working as a costumed tour guide in a Victorian Nottingham gaol. Fresh out of an unsatisfying relationship and unsure about future carIn 2008, Jen is working as a costumed tour guide in a Victorian Nottingham gaol. Fresh out of an unsatisfying relationship and unsure about future career prospects, Jen feels most comfortable in the enclosed exercise yard, tucked away from the modern world. Her ease there is disturbed by some strange noises in the dark passageways, and a vision of one of the long-ago prisoners. On a trip to the library to research the name that pops into her head, she meets Owen. Her first date with him is pretty miserable, and she makes an escape with a cute charity collector who happens to be a girl. Over the course of the novel, Jen has to begin figuring out who she is and what she wants in life.
In 1808, Elizabeth Cooper has just been sentenced to death for the crime of "stealing in a dwelling house". Conditions in the prison start out miserable and quickly get worse; her only comfort comes from one of her fellow prisoners, a woman facing transportation to Australia.
The two stories alternate throughout the book. Jen's story is told in first-person, while Elizabeth's is in close-third-person, so the reader only sees events through those two particular viewpoints. Both stories are about truth and lies and the cost of both living lies and embracing the truth. The two women are connected in a way that is gradually revealed.
Overall, the writing is good, but I had a few quibbles. For one thing, there was really only one Elizabeth Cooper in a couple hundred years of prison records? Also, the mystery behind the vandalism really wasn't much of a mystery; Jen just seemed a little slow in figuring it out.
Equal parts historical fiction and contemporary romance, with dashes of mystery and paranormal, it's an enjoyable (though predictable) read. Buck is clearly a promising writer, though, and this is her debut novel. I look forward to her future work....more
The physics law works not only on objects but on people. Because of Sarah's action, her force and thrust on your life, you went flying into space andThe physics law works not only on objects but on people. Because of Sarah's action, her force and thrust on your life, you went flying into space and spinning out of control.
At the beginning of her Junior year of high school, Alyssa thought she had things under control. She got along with her stepmother and her half-brother. She worked hard and got good grades. She was out to her friends Ben and M'Chelle and the other members of the school's Gay-Straight Alliance, and closeted to everyone else, especially her homophobic father. When she met and started dating Sarah, it seemed like everything would be fine if they could just keep their relationship a secret from their families. But secrets have a way of getting out, and now Alyssa has been disowned by her father and sent to stay with the mother she barely knows.
Peters skillfully presents Alyssa's intense emotions as she processes her anger and grief over her first love. The first-person present-tense narration gives her a compelling voice, bringing the reader into an immediate intimacy. While Alyssa tries to move on in the present, getting to know the mother who left when she was a baby, she recalls the last years in flashbacks. These flashbacks are written in second-person, an odd stylistic choice that unfortunately breaks up the flow of the narrative. That weakness aside, this is an excellent portrayal of first love and first heartbreak that will be familiar to anyone who has lived through it, regardless of orientation. Peters' new novel is a welcome addition to a growing segment of queer YA literature - stories in which the character's orientation is not the central issue. Alyssa is already comfortable with her sexuality. The challenges she faces are the more universal problems of growing up: recognizing an idealized parent's flaws; learning to relate to parents as fellow adults; becoming a person with an identity separate from that of the family. The story of her relationship with Sarah - a romance between young people that is looked upon with disapproval by their families - is a classic tragic tale. Her struggle to move forward and allow herself to fall in love again speaks to anyone who has ever had a broken heart....more
The year is 1851, and 12-year-old Amelia Forrester has just arrived in San Francisco from Boston. Her family is looking for a new beginning, but thingThe year is 1851, and 12-year-old Amelia Forrester has just arrived in San Francisco from Boston. Her family is looking for a new beginning, but things are not turning out to be as easy as they might have hoped. San Francisco is a rough-and-tumble town full of miners, hopeful miners, and the families of miners out in "the diggings". A rough crossing through Panama forced her parents to dip into the money they had saved to get settled, and while there are plenty of ways for a young boy to earn some money, there are few jobs available for a young girl. Then, she has an idea: She'll dress as a boy and sell newspapers to help get her family back on its feet.
Complicating matters is Amelia's own family history, or, rather, the parts that she knows have been kept from her. Raised by her mother, Sophie, and her mother's "friend", Estelle, Amelia has never known her father's identity.
Amelia's knack for falling into adventures takes her from San Francisco to Sonora and back again. Period details abound, creating a picture for the young reader of what it might have been like to be a young person in Gold Rush California. There is a whole lot going on in this book, sometimes a bit too much. Both sexism and racism loom large in Amelia's world, with a few characters coming off as little more than walking examples of both. The central characters, though, are more well-rounded and realistic. The dialog sounds true to the period while usually managing to avoid falling into stilted expository speeches.
Recommend this one to fans of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate looking for something with more adventure....more
Emily "Fido" Faithfull is a woman of business in Victorian England, busy running a printing press and devoted to the Cause of women. She keeps herselfEmily "Fido" Faithfull is a woman of business in Victorian England, busy running a printing press and devoted to the Cause of women. She keeps herself so busy that she barely has time to notice her own loneliness, as she has no husband, lover, or even close friend. Her beloved friend, Helen Codrington, left London 8 years ago and has never so much as sent a letter. But a chance encounter in the street changes everything: Helen has returned from Malta with her family... and a gentleman she claims is a "family friend". Fido is drawn into the middle of the conflict as the Codrington's marriage finally falls into ruins and both sides want Fido as a witness. Period details bring scenes to life, setting what could be contemporary accusations firmly in the late 19th century. Everyone's secrets are about to come out in court and the newspapers, and no one is completely right or wrong, good or evil. An Author's Note at the end details the liberties taken with the original chronology and details, and where Donoghue filled in gaps in the historical record. She stays close to the true story of Codrington v. Codrington, but gives readers a glimpse into the thoughts and emotions that vanish into silent memory. An absorbing and engaging tale of love, passion, and betrayal in a changing world. ...more