Summary from Goodreads:
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-intentioned 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.
Young adult fiction is an audience category that encompasses many genres. However, one thing that’s somewhat rare to find is literary fiction for young adults, which is undoubtedly what The Miseducation of Cameron Post is. And considering the years the author has spent in academia—both an MFA and PhD in creative writing—it isn’t surprising that Danforth’s novel fits into this designator. This is a slow-moving, character-driven coming of age story, one that focuses less on plot and more on the protagonist’s transformation. This isn’t bad, but compared to the overwhelming majority of YA novels, The Miseducation of Cameron Post does stand out as a book that requires a bit more patience from its audience.
As a reader who does generally enjoy quieter, more introspective literary novels, I was comfortable with Danforth’s style and slower pace. That being said, I do think that the novel’s page count, sitting just shy of 500, was a bit excessive. The author took early half the book to arrive at “meaningful” conflict—the rest was merely setting the stage. The beginning chunk of The Miseducation of Cameron Post could absolutely have been more streamlined and efficient. And then, in contrast, the concluding chapters could have been far less rushed. It took so long for things to get properly started, but once the author decided to wrap thins up, the story was over in record time. Some kind of balance needed to be struck between the two, I think.
Yet while I might have complaints regarding Danforth’s presentation of her story, I think it’s important to acknowledge that the narrative itself was strong and engaging, pacing issues notwithstanding. Cameron Post’s experience hit very close to home for me. I, too, am a product of a conservative Evangelical upbringing, and so much of what Aunt Ruth and other adults in Cameron’s life tell her mirrored things I was taught for the first 18 years of my life. And while I was never forcibly exiled to a gay conversion school, I did once attend a hardcore Christian “bootcamp” in Bozeman, Montana—which is not too far from where God’s Promise, the school in the book is. I could never claim to know exactly how this character feels, but based on my own experiences, it was only too easy to imagine what Cameron went through over the course of the book.
What this book did best was create in Cameron Post a nuanced, authentic image of a teen girl. I believed completely in this character and her experiences, which is pivotal for this type of novel to succeed. Though perhaps Cameron wasn’t the most unique or “voicey” of narrators, I still thought her reactions, thoughts, and emotions all consistently rang true.
All in all, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is not a perfect book but it’s still mostly well-done and high quality. This is a coming of age novel that accurately and honestly depicts how evangelical Christianity “deals with” queer children. Emily M. Danforth does an excellent job with her protagonist’s depth and believability, and that in the end made this novel a good one.