I said in a previous review that sometimes the path to a particular book can be oddly circuitous. For instance, a few weeks ago I found out that Malinda Lo has a tumblr blog so I followed it because I had especially enjoyed her novel Ash. Shortly thereafter, she posted about a YA novel that had been pulled from a school’s summer reading list. I know I’m trying not to read any books that aren’t already in my personal library but I made an exception for this novel and requested it from my local public library.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth was probably doomed to be pulled from shelves somewhere given the topic. A young girl kisses her best friend. On the same day, her parents are in a fatal accident. The two events are forever fused in the titular character’s mind and the guilt and confusion she feels is well handled in a novel that is complex enough to appeal to readers of all ages.
The first sexual explorations between Cameron and her best friend lead to other experiences with other peers, laying a foundation that is necessary for the later developments of the novel. Inevitably, she is “outed” and her Aunt Ruth decides something must be done to save her niece from her sinful ways. I was worried that the Christian characters in the novel would be left as two-dimensional hypocrites, caricatures of the dogmatically “evil” religious, self-righteous, you name it. Instead, the Christian characters are well-meaning if misguided. Not especially likable (and, okay, one in particular pissed me off but I think any reader would feel the same) but at least understandable in their motivations.
Cameron herself is a multifaceted and interesting young woman who, in her quest to find meaning also comes to a better understanding of herself. Intelligent and compassionate in her writing, Danforth has done a powerful job of creating a character that feels familiar the more you read. Even when Cameron isn’t sure why she is doing the things she does, the reader understands; even when she is making choices that are irresponsible, the reader cares. It takes skill to allow a character to be fully-human and the author has talent to spare.
As for its being pulled from the summer reading list—I totally get it and I thoroughly disagree with it. This is a novel that explores sex and sexuality with such grace and honesty that it is simply to daring for some narrow-minded people to fully appreciate. More’s the pity.