The Miseducation of Cameron Post
By Mary Eisenhart,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Story of young Montana lesbian is best for mature teens.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The book captures a particular time and place (small-town Montana in the early '90s) as a historical snapshot, with a vivid sense of the local culture that makes it easy for the reader to envision living in that reality.
A mixed bag. Cameron and her friends steal pretty regularly from the time readers meet them at age 12. They also drink and smoke marijuana. While they're occasionally caught and suffer consequences for this behavior, for the most part it's just an accepted part of their universe. On several occasions, people Cameron thinks are her friends betray her badly. But on other occasions, she and her family members and friends show each other true love and loyalty under hard circumstances, and people she hadn't trusted surprise her by being better than she thought. Through it all, she learns valuable lessons about who she is and being true to herself.
Positive Role Models
Just as in real life, no one is completely good or bad here. Cameron goes through quite a bit of character development, voluntarily and otherwise; she doesn't always make good choices -- and she knows it -- but she becomes both a wiser person and a better friend as the story unfolds. While some of their behavior would make a parent's blood run cold if their own kids were similarly engaged, Cameron's true friends -- including Jane, Adam, and Jamie -- are resourceful and loyal. And even if she doesn't always understand Cameron, her grandmother clearly loves and supports her. Cameron's dead parents seem to have a lot to do with her determination, independence, and strength of character.
Violence & Scariness
One of the kids at the God's Promise program, despairing that he's still homosexual, attempts to cut off his penis. Back in Fort Miles, drunken cowboy brawling is common. Cameron's friend Jane has an artificial leg due to a childhood mishap, Cameron's parents die in a car accident, and Cameron's mother narrowly escapes death as a child in an earthquake that kills her best friend's brother. While Cameron doesn't directly witness any of these incidents, they all have a significant impact on her life and her imagination.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Cameron kisses both boys and girls and engages in hot, heavy, and explicitly described sexual experimentation with several girls.
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Swear words come up early and often: "F--k," "s--t," and typical variants ("f--kin'," "f--ked up," etc.). Plus "hell," "damn," and anti-gay slurs such as "faggot," "dyke," etc.
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Products & Purchases
Many consumer products (e.g. Pringle's, Bubblicious, Sunny Delight) are mentioned by name, mainly because Cameron and her pals are shoplifting them or mixing them with liquor.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
From their middle school days on, Cameron and her friends drink alcohol and, later, smoke marijuana. Adults also often drink alcohol, which is the socially acceptable, legal drug in their world. Tobacco use is less frequent, by both kids and adults, but it's commonplace and accepted in the adult society of the time and is also the subject of some juvenile fooling around.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that while the publisher of The Miseducation of Cameron Post says that the book is OK for 14-year-olds, we suggest caution, depending on how ready you feel your kid is for a teen Montana girl's lesbian explorations in the early '90s and the resulting complications. Adult readers and mature teens will probably find the book's excellent writing and complex moral universe engaging and thought-provoking. But parents may find that a world in which casual sexual experimentation, drug use, theft, swearing, and hate speech are all more or less accepted behavior may be too much for younger young-adult readers to deal with.
Where to Read
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What's the Story?
It's 1989 in Fort Miles, MT, and 12-year-old Cameron Post has just kissed her best friend, Irene. She wants to do it again, too, which is just the beginning of a lot of emotional turmoil, particularly since her parents -- away for the weekend on a camping trip -- are killed in an auto accident and never return, and her first thought is that they'll never learn her shameful secret. Ever after, the secret and her parents' death seem inextricably connected. Over the next four years, Cameron pursues a passionate, guilt-ridden quest for identity (sexual and otherwise) that's both hindered and abetted by girls with whom she falls in love, the boys on the track team, her super-conservative Aunt Ruth -- who sends her to Christian re-education camp to \"cure\" her -- and the true friends she finds there.
Is It Any Good?
Cameron's friendship with Jane and Adam is one of the book's best features. Gender issues aside -- and they are, of course, prominent here -- this book will resonate a good deal with readers who appreciate the rewards of finding friends with whom you truly have something in common, especially if you've felt out of place for a long time.
Danforth also allows characters who could be simply villains to be far more nuanced -- as Cameron experiences the ill effects of their behavior, she also understands the motivations, some sincerely good, that are driving it. Telling her tale along the way, she gets a good deal more explicit with regard to sex, drugs, and drinking (from age 12) than parents may be comfortable with younger kids reading, and there's also a lot of foul language. But for mature readers, the book is brilliant.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how things have changed since 1993, when this book ends. For example, a few years later, the Internet came along, making it much easier for kids who feel disconnected to find each other. (Another biggie: cell phones.)
Do you think a 12-year-old gay kid would have as a hard a time in school today as Cameron had in 1989? Why or why not?
How do you think Cameron can tell the difference between the adults who truly have her best interests at heart and those who have their own agendas?
- Author: Emily M. Danforth
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Balzer + Bray
- Publication date: February 7, 2012
- Number of pages: 480
- Last updated: June 17, 2015
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