Friday, June 21, 2013

Cameron and the Girls by Edward Averett

Cameron and the Girls is one of those rare books I chose to read without knowing anything at all about it - I was simply attracted to the cover and the title.  I expected the story to be about a boy torn between two girls - and it is, but not in the way you would think.

Cameron Galloway is a 14 year old boy in the Emotionally Disturbed Program at the local junior high school.  He has been living with schizophreiform for a while now, which is an acute form of schizophrenia that cause temporary breaks with reality rather than the constant break that occurs with chronic schizophrenia.  When a psychotic episode does occur, Cameron hears the voice of the 'educated and knowledgeable' Professor.  But Cam is supposed to take his meds everyday and as long as does that he has, no problems but he also has no feelings, no emotions, no voices.

So Cam stops taking his meds and now it has been 5 or 6 days and the comforting, familiar voice of the Professor has returned, but now so has another voice - the young, flattering voice that Cam calls the Girl.  No girl has ever paid attention to Cam before and the Girl makes him feel good.  But no sooner does the Girl come into his life, then another girl, Nina, does too.  Nina is a new girl in his EDP (Emotionally Disturbed Program) class who suffers from depression and her mother's neglect.

Nina talks Cam in skipping school and going to the convenience store near her home.  They begins talking and he finds himself oddly drawn to Nina.  But as they get to know each other better, another voice comes along - the Other Guy.  The Other Guy is dangerous, he taunts Cameron to be more of a man, to take what he wants, to take risks and behave in cruel ways.  And the Other Guy begins to drown out the voice of the Professor and the Girl.

As Cam sinks into his hallucinations, Nina sinks into her depression, finally attempting suicide.  Cam is the one who knows her the best, but will he be able to help the real girl in his life?

Cameron and the Girls is told from the first person point of view.  This is refreshing because most novels about a young person with a mental illness are written from the point of view of a narrator on the outside looking in.  But Edward Averett is a skillful clinical psychologist who knows how to take his readers into the mind of this young boy and really let them experience his life from the inside of Cam's head.  Sometimes it is hard to understand that a person who hears voices in their head doesn't experience them as imaginary, but to people like Cam the voices they hear are real and so they respond to them as though they are a real presence.  And yet, Cam knows his has schizophreniform.

Cam's story is at time funny, sad, disturbing heartbreaking and hopeful but it is always compelling.  It is a coming of age story with a twist.  Cam is not trying to find out who he is but he rather trying to make his own decisions about leading his life instead of having those decisions made from him by someone else.  For most kids, making decisions about their lives is a maturation step that just comes naturally.

Cameron and the Girls is wonderful novel for that will leave a strong impression on all readers.

This book is recommended for readers age 14+
This book was purchased for my personal library

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