The Miseducation of Cameron Post has been a book on my radar for several years. Published in 2012 in America, it never made its way over to our shores and not seeing it on the bookshelves meant I never remembered to pick it up, despite my wonderful pal Alice recommending it to me multiple times.
When an email from Penguin dropped into my inbox announcing that it was finally being published in the UK, I replied faster than light and lo and behold, a beautiful finished copy landed on my doorstep. Well, technically it was handed over to me by our postman Steve, but work with me.
When Cameron Post kisses her best friend Irene Klausson around the same time that her parents die in a tragic accident, so begins her journey in reconciling her sexual identity with the guilt that her first thought was relief that she’d never have to tell them what she did.
Cameron herself is strong willed, athletic, devoted to her grandma, and a movie buff, determined to hide her attraction to girls in small town Miles City, while living under the watchful eye of her aunt Ruth.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post follows Cameron through her first few relationships and trysts – from childhood best friend Irene, to cool Seattle punk Lyndsey, to the classic lesbian trope of wooing of the straight girl, Coley Taylor. Only this last romance is where it goes wrong, and before Cameron knows it, her aunt has sent her to a Christian camp to straighten out.
The first thing that strikes me about this novel is the pacing and structure. I’ve often heard people refer to young adult fiction as more plot driven, following the high speed of your teenage years as opposed to adult fiction which allows narrative to be more meandering. I really feel that Cameron Post sits more comfortably in the second category, if we are to place the definition there. This is a character’s memoir, a gentle epic, something like the works of Donna Tartt. Cameron’s narration from a point in the future only seeks to reinforce this, though let me be clear, I think this is all a strength but may explain why some people have previously commented on GoodReads that they found it slow. While the plot of the Christian camp is listed in the blurb, do take note that this plot doesn’t start until about 2/3rds of the way into this book – which is why this really feels to me primarily a novel about being a young closeted queer kid in rural America.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is an important read for young queer people, especially those of us who have the privilege to live in places where a possible reality of being out is being sent to straightening camps – a great exploration of these other than this book is the film But I’m a Cheerleader, the set of which I had in my mind as the site of the Christian camp.
Danforth’s has created compelling complex grayscale characters – all capable of kindness and cruelty – to populate this stunning coming of age novel. Her writing is sumptuous, and there are some real dagger-in-your-heart moments; even when you know Cameron’s happiness is not going to last, I found myself pleading with the book to have a happy outcome.
I’ve been absolutely blown away by this novel, and I hope that its publication in the UK will help it reach other young people, queer or not, who may need some of Cameron’s strength in their lives.
Interested? Get it here.
What to read next:
- Georgia Peaches and Other Hidden Fruit by Robin Jaye Brown
- Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley
- Unbecoming by Jenny Downham
Thank you kindly to Penguin Platform for sharing this copy with me.