Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

From the publisher:
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-intentions 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.

My Thoughts:
The good:
My favorite part of The Miseducation of Cameron Post is her Victorian dollhouse.  Way back in Psych 101, we learned that houses are generally interpreted to represent the self.  And, oh, tis true, tis true, at least here.  Cameron's dollhouse was made by her father, and even when her aunt wants her to give up her dollhouse, Cameron stand her ground and keeps it.  But not out of sentimentality towards her dad.  Throughout the novel, Cameron continuously squirrels away representative bits of her life, things saved, things stolen, all glued into different rooms in seemingly no particular order.  If house symbolizes self, this is a great example of the way Cameron lives her life - hiding the truths of who she is deep inside herself so no one really ever sees who she is.

The not so good:
 Yes, I agree that there aren't enough really good LGTB novels out there for YA readers.  But just because a novel is about LGBTQ kids, doesn't make it great or even good.   Having recently read gay-themed books that I thought were excellect additions to the LGTB body of literature, such as Malinda Lo's two novels Ash and Huntress, and David Levithan's Boy Meets Boy and Perry Moore's Hero to name a few, I had very high hopes for The Miseducation of Cameron Post.  But I found it to be very disappointing.


Well, I thought Cameron as a character was so distant that I never really had any sense of who she is, even at the end of the novel.  Cameron's story is one of denial, and Danforth has done a really good job of setting that up structurally in the novel, but she did it at the cost of denying her reader any real access or insight to Cameron.  You should feel that you know something about Cameron, even if the characters in the book don't.  I felt that made it hard to work up any feelings for her, beyond a superficial empathy, and it doesn't necessarily result in a driven need to know what happens to her, or a hope beyond hope that all will turn out well.

But, perhaps I feel this way because we have has so many sassy protagonists lately, and I like that so naturally I really wanted to hear some sarcasm, some smart-mouthed remarks coming out of Cameron's mouth, and I also wanted to see some feistiness.  They can also be forms of denial, but instead Cameron's denial takes the form of too much intellectualizing (to me, a form of dull denial) and accepting her circumstances rather than fighting back.

Which leads me to Words-

I love words, but there were just too many here.  This was Danforth's dissertation and I know sometimes dissertations committee's want  lots of words.  But publishers employ editors to take out some of the excess and yet, that doesn't seem to be in evidence here.  The result is a great dissertation, but a long, overly worded YA narrative.  So, sometimes Cameron sounds like a graduate student instead of a teen.

Lastly, I personally find conversion therapy abhorrent. I don't believe that being gay is a choice or a disease.  And I know that places like God's Promise in the novel really do exist and there is also a lot of talk about homosexuality in politics lately.  Cameron's aunt and the people at the school may have been well-intentioned, but that doesn't equal being right.  I thought for sure Cameron's teenage rebellious streak would show up here, but no, it didn't.  She willingly went and accepted her fate.

In the end, Cameron was just too passive a protagonist for my taste.  But a lot of people loved this novel and I would definitely recommend reading it for yourself.

After all, just because I didn't like it very much, doesn't necessarily make it a bad book.  

This book is recommended for readers 14+
This book was obtained from the publisher.

Be sure to visit Emily Danforth's website and explore Cameron's dollhouse.

AfterEllen has an informative article written by Malinda Lo on other books about lesbian/bisexual girls for YA readers.


  1. Interesting review, Alex. I had this one on my list so it's good to hear your thoughts on it first.

  2. Thanks, M. I hope you do read this, I still think it is a worthwhile story.


Imagination Designs