A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
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?
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