My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
A YA novel set in the nineties that isn’t marketed as historical fiction? Color me shocked.
Seriously, I was so set to love “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” for its blend of small town settings, gay rights issues, and high school in a decade I knew only from a kid’s point of view. And while there were some strong moments surrounding each of these things, I never saw enough development to fall head-over-heels in love the way I might have liked.
The first couple chapters of this book, introducing Cameron’s early flirtatious interactions with a female friend, were the strongest of the story. I loved the ‘hook’ here, the idea that Cameron’s parents were killed while she was out making mischief with a girl she sort of had feelings for. When her aunt and grandmother move in to take care of her, I thought I could see the shape of the story starting to coalesce.
Except it didn’t, really. ‘Miseducation’ covers most of Cameron’s life from late childhood on up, yet doesn’t quite manage to give any of the later moments the depth they deserve. I think one of my largest issues with the story was that the timeline spanned way too many years to give me the impression that the most important parts of Cameron’s development were being touched upon.
The book jumps from fling to fling and drama to drama, but it never settles on one topic long enough to garner any kind of lasting sympathy. Even the big issue mentioned in the flap copy–her aunt finding out about a budding relationship and trying to ‘fix’ her–doesn’t actually happen until the last quarter of the story. And most of the resolution surrounding that huge incident never occurs.
Maybe it’s just a pet peeve of mine, but I get irritated when the incident or change or trauma using to draw in a reader only impacts the character for a small section of the story. It always makes me feel like the author might have started in the wrong place.
I had a couple issues with plot-related ‘cop-outs,’ things that popped up once in perhaps the wrong way, or were dealt with too quickly to keep the tension levels where I would’ve wanted them. Those are smaller issues, mostly, but they still lowered the rating.
Don’t get me wrong. The dialogue was snappy and I loved the high school character interactions between Cameron and her first love, the girls on the swim team and at her lifeguarding job, and the guys she’s known her whole life. I loved the fact that so few of the relationships–familial, platonic, or romantic–felt cliched or overused. I just wish we would’ve seen more of them so I could get a better sense for everything Cameron stood to lose in having her aunt send her away.
I’m not sure whether I’d recommend this or not. Depending upon how immediate or sprawling you like your fiction to be, you’d probably have to decide for yourself.