Emily Crowe's Reviews > The Miseducation of Cameron Post

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
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's review
Aug 31, 2011

it was ok
Read in August, 2011

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.

***************Spoiler Warning*********************
One 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.
****************End of Spoiler***********************

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 interesting enough and her "issues" just not compelling enough to draw out her story that much. 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.
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Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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Sandra I respectfully disagree on two points; I think the school Cameron attends is definitely portrayed as unacceptable, particularly after (view spoiler) Also, i would have no problem handing this book to a mature fourteen year old. I agree drug use is unacceptable and it was pretty widespread in the novel, but just because something in unacceptable, doesn't mean teens can't read about it.

Emily Crowe Hi, Sandra, and thanks for your comments. I still think that the school portrayal is more forgiving than it ought to be, but I think we might be on the same page re: readership. I don't think there's anything objectionable to younger teens in the book, but I think there's stuff that's objectionable to the *parents* of younger teens, and that's who I'm selling books to a good bit of the time.

Kyla I totally agree, the school seemed awfully benign and she seemed like she wasn't questioning it at all, when I believe the character we had met to that point would be doing a lot of pushing back.

message 4: by Vi (new) - rated it 3 stars

Vi How about Empress of the World? I remember enjoying that much more than this one. Way too long.

Shaya Actually, one of the things I appreciated most about the book was that it wasn't heavy-handed about how awful Promise was but was still very clear that Promise was not a good place. When I was a teen (I'm now 20) I was always skeptical of books like Go Ask Alice that were obviously trying to make a point. I don't think anyone would read this and think pray-away-the-gay schools are a good idea. And I liked that I could understand where all the conservative adults were coming from even if I didn't agree with most of their actions.

Have you read Far From Xanadu? That might be a good pick about a lesbian coming out in a small town.

Emily Crowe Haven't read that one, so thanks for the rec!

Kyley Eagleson I'd also look into Ask the Passengers by A.S. King. It was unputdownable. :)

Emily Crowe Kyley wrote: "I'd also look into Ask the Passengers by A.S. King. It was unputdownable. :)"

I appreciate the recommendation.

Vickie Wilson I have to agree, I think the book was far, far too long. I never found the main character particularly interesting which just bogged down the story more. I recommend that 90's movie about a gay cheerleader, it was much more fun.

message 10: by Tina (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tina I have to agree that the school is not condemned enough by Emily. However, this is written from Cameron's perspective and she doesn't know any better than what she experiences in her world - hence she simply just goes with the flow.
Whilst we, from an outside perspective, can make our own condemning judgments on the school.

message 11: by Gillian (new)

Gillian Feeney I have to disagree. As a 15 year old this book is exquisite. The story that Cam portrays is so relatable to many lgbt youth. Her drug use and sexual activity are only a minor part as a whole in this book. YA lgbt books are close to impossible to find that are also quality. Though I did find the 'falling in love with your straight best friend' trope a bit overdone as well as a few loose end (Margot and Lindsey) the book makes up for it. Characters like Jane and mark and even coley are true examples of what can happen when a young person is told that who they are is a sin against nature. I felt so much rage at coley and promise. This emotional feeling is enough for the author to not have to overdo the terribleness of promise. She makes us see how terrible it is instead of having cam just tell us. Lindsey was also an interesting character. She helps not only Cameron's journey through the novel but also helps deliver other information to the non-lgbt+ aware reader. I had already read Carmilla which was briefly mentioned in one of the chapters. This means that giving this book to teenager not only ensures they learn about this plot but might also take the time to learn about the references that cam and Lindsey make.

Britt I might agree that the "school" and the people involved in putting Cameron there weren't shown as bad enough IF:
a) I didn't think that one of the themes of the book is that abuse is abuse is abuse even if the people try to be gentle and really think they have your best interests at heart, and that your feelings about those people can be complicated,
b) Cam's realization that these people's ideas and people are abusive and wrong, not her, wasn't part of her character growth, like the idea was "Cameron is coming from a self-hating place to realize these things" rather than "the author wants to not come down too hard on gay conversion" and
c) the not-outright-saying-this-is-unacceptable wasn't a--conceit? is that the right word?--that extends throughout the novel. Cameron rarely outright says "this was a bad thing," or "this person was wrong," and I think that's because the writer assumes we'll already understand that, or get it through the events of the story.

I can see your point and understand why that aspect might rankle, but that's my reading of it.

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