Title: The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Author: Emily M. Danforth
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Date Published: February 7, 2012
How I Heard About It: On the book's date of publication, NPR's Melinda Lo posted a review immediately, singing Danforth's praises in an irresistible way.
Two Sentence Summary: Set in the early 90s in super-conservative, small-town Montana (Miles City, to be precise), this book is the beautiful coming-of-age and coming out story of Cameron Post, a young woman whose parents have both just died in a freak car accident. When Cameron's religious Aunt Ruth catches wind of her niece's romantic goings-on, Cameron is packed up and shipped off to a facility for "correcting" her homosexuality, and Danforth takes us on an impressive journey through the mind of a young woman coping with trauma.
Things I Think: This is an exceptional debut novel, and while it is largely marketed as a Young Adult read, I'm one of many adults who has picked up and lauded "The Miseducation of Cameron Post."
Danforth is an exceptional writer. The characters are hyper-realistic in their three-dimensionality, as is the in-depth portrayal of Miles City ("home," for the narrator) and all of its secret nooks. The level of detail and the absolute honesty of the narrator combine to make this book intensely intimate. It would be difficult not to "become one" with Cameron on her journey, in which we are allowed to experience private moments of infatuation, gullibility, shame, pride, wrath... Even when she steps away from herself, numbs her overwhelmed brain with drugs or shoplifting or stolen beers, Cameron is endearing and sweet and hugely clever.
Perhaps the thing that rang truest for me was the major social pressure of living in a small town. Privacy is typically unlikely and short-lived, and one's decisions are colored by concern for how the town will react. This constant presence can become a heavy burden, and while some might crumble under the weight of these societal expectations, Cameron wages a fierce battle to maintain her sense of self. Constantly pushing back against the status quo, her story is one of perseverance and individuality, a recipe for a powerful and important coming-of-age novel.