The Miseducation of Cameron Post
By Emily M. Danforth
The coming of age story of a gay teenager from a small town.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth is about a teenager, Cameron Post, who is beginning to discover her sexuality in a small town in Montana. The book has won several awards, including the Nebraska Book award and the Morris Award.
Cameron Post, a young teenager on the cusp of middle school, loses her parents to a car accident on the same day that she shares a kiss with her best friend Irene. From there, her world begins to change: her aunt comes becomes her guardian, Irene moves away, and Cameron begins to develop a serious crush on her new friend Coley Taylor (who also happens to have a boyfriend).
The book chronicles the events of Cameron’s life as she struggles to figure out her sexual identity and the guilt she feels in connection with these feelings and her parents’ death.
This book is quite lengthy, covering, in depth, several years of Cameron’s young adult life. Danforth goes to great lengths to fully develop each and every character, providing numerous backstories – even for small-bit characters. The amount of detail provided just about Miles City, Montana, Cameron’s hometown, is enormous, almost standing as a character in itself.
Much of this serves to provide the reader with an expansive view of Cameron’s life and home, her friends, the people she encounters. Cameron’s thoughts are very deep and probing and she never withholds her thoughts and feelings about the people she comes across or the reasons behind people’s actions. This serves to provide much of the bulk of this book and because Danforth is such a masterful author, I didn’t mind the in-depth detailing she provided.
The only thing that I think brings this book down a bit is the unlikely nature of the number of Cameron’s romances. More than any YA book I’ve read before, Cameron has multiple relationships (and I’m counting the ones that don’t develop into full-blown dating, because she does not have the luxury of openly dating anyone) throughout the course of the novel. The fact that no one can be openly gay in her hometown makes it rather hard to believe that Cameron manages to make so many intimate connections. Either she is very obviously gay, which I didn’t seem to get from her, or she’s just extremely lucky. Whatever the case, it’s the only unrealistic element to this otherwise extremely realistic novel.
What most strikes me about the strength of this book is its exploration of sexuality. Cameron is young when she shares her first kiss (12 going on 13) and though the novel follows her into high school, she is only just starting to discover herself. Danforth doesn’t make a great show of lesbian culture or what it means to be gay. Cameron barely understands the concept – making her friendship with Lindsay, who is out and proud gay, crucial. The approach to gender identity is explored deeply, especially in the latter half of the novel and it’s very open and very real. Some of the most poignant moments are when Cameron is thinking through her own feelings, either in response to meeting another lesbian or when she is forced to confront society’s gender roles.
Danforth also goes deeply into gender identity and Christian religious stance on homosexuality. The latter half of the novel involves Cameron’s stay at God’s Promise, a school that’s sole purpose is to enforce gender roles and convert homosexuals back to the “correct” gender roles they were assigned at birth. I think that Danforth does an excellent job of handling homosexuality and religious response to it, creating a very thoughtful dialogue, not just within Cameron’s own thoughts, but also in her conversations with the staff/teachers of the school and her fellow “disciples.” Some of the most emotionally charged elements occur in this part of the novel and it’s very thought provoking and deep.
Literary Value: 4/5
Danforth’s writing is so impressive. Not only is Cameron’s narrative voice so authentic and thoughtful, but the amount of detail that is brought forth is staggering. The world around her is so vivid, a near perfect picture is painted for the reader and all the characters in the novel are given their due time. All the bits and pieces of each character are layered and presented in prose that is beautiful and rings true. Danforth makes a lot of connections to feelings or observations that many people have thought before or share, which lends a very realistic feeling to Cameron’s voice.
I absolutely loved Danforth’s writing style. It’s also one of the reasons I can excuse the book for being so lengthy. While the plot is not face paced, ever, the story doesn’t feel slow. Every scene seems like its own episode or vignette in the life of Cameron Post. This book takes its time with things. It’s a slice of life, bildungsroman that handles a lot of heavy material, but I never got bogged down while reading it.
Entertainment Factor: 3/5
There is a lot of ground covered in this story. I was a bit daunted by its size when starting out, but once I delved into the story, I felt quite compelled by it. If you’re a fan of slice-of-life stories, then this is an excellent choice and you will entertained. I enjoyed reading the book, but I do feel that it took a while to grow on me and there were places throughout that definitely got a bit slow for my taste. I don’t know that I would have picked it up on my own but a friend recommend it to me and said she related to it quite a bit. I can say that Cameron, her narrative voice, is what made me like this book. There’s a lot of ups and downs in the subject matter, but through it all, Cameron helped keep things light and kept me entertained, so give all the props to Danforth’s character building on this one.
Cover Art Rating: 3/5
I’m not counting the movie poster cover (I dislike when books are reprinted to have the movie poster for the cover instead of the original).
I think the cover, while visually appealing, doesn’t really connect with anything that the book has to offer. I feel like it’s a bit generic “farm town, hicksville” for what the book is actually about. Otherwise, I think the colors and the openness of the image are nice and definitely catch your eye.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
This is a well written book in the much needed, slowly expanding LGBTQIA Young Adult genre. I think many teens will relate to Cameron’s earnest, authentic voice and her experiences as she grows up. There are a lot of difficult topics brought up, but it’s important that they are and this book doesn’t shy away from them. I think, not just for young adults, but adults as well, this book is a great choice. Danforth really captures the teenage voice and the story is so compelling. It’s a long read, but it’s really worth it and for anyone who likes that slice-of-life or coming-of-age genre, this is a perfect choice. It’s all about what it means to be a teenager and the highs and lows of young adult life. I would definitely recommend it.
Open Discussion Below!
What do you think? Have you read the book? Let me know your thoughts about it down below! Haven’t read it but thinking about doing so? Let me know in the comments! This book has a movie adaptation – have you seen it? What did you think? Tell me all about it and, as always, keep reading!