Cameron Post feels a mix of guilt and relief when her parents die in a car accident. Their deaths mean they will never learn the truth she eventually comes to—that she’s gay. Orphaned, Cameron comes to live with her old-fashioned grandmother and ultraconservative aunt Ruth. There she falls in love with her best friend, a beautiful cowgirl. When she’s eventually outed, her aunt sends her to God’s Promise, a religious conversion camp that is supposed to “cure” her homosexuality. At the camp, Cameron comes face to face with the cost of denying her true identity.
I LOVED THIS BOOK.
The afternoon my parents died, I was out shoplifting with Irene Klauson.
At twelve, Cameron Post and her best friend Irene have discovered kissing — each other. Just a few days after their first kiss, Cameron’s parents die in a car accident. Cameron pulls back from their friendship and spends most of the rest of the summer alone in her room watching rented movies. (On VHS, because it’s 1989!) Meanwhile, Irene’s family comes into money and she goes away to boarding school, effectively ending their friendship if Cameron’s withdrawal hasn’t already.
This book covers the years 1989 through 1993, so there’s a lot of time that’s skipped. There are basically two parts to the book. In the first, the part of the book, I liked the best, Cameron gets involved in a few more relationships, but she’s always aware that bad things will happen if she’s found out. During this time, her aunt Ruth joins a more conservative church, which is where Cameron meets Coley Taylor, and that relationship is what ultimately leads to the second part of the book. Set over the 1992-1993 school year, it takes place at God’s Promise boarding school.
This book was so beautifully written. Emily Danforth has two versions of the book trailer on her Vimeo that quote the book. This is one of my favorites:
Everything was heightened the way it always is when summer is slipping away to fall, and you’re younger than eighteen, and all you can do is suck your cherry Icee and let the chlorine sting your nose, all the way up into the pockets behind your eyes, and snap your towel at the pretty girl with the sunburn, and hope to do it all again come June.
I loved this quote. It is so reminiscent of childhood. Even now that I don’t have a three month summer break and even though I love autumn, I sometimes feel that way as summer comes to an end. There’s just something about summer. Most of the first half of the book is set in summer, with the school years being skipped, and that’s when so many of the important things in Cameron’s life happen.
A lot of characters float in and out of Cameron’s life: her grandmother and aunt Ruth, Ruth’s boyfriend/husband, her mom’s childhood best friend, a few friends, girlfriends (although she doesn’t call them that), and the “disciples” at God’s Promise. We don’t ever get to know any of them very well, but I liked most of them, even Cameron’s aunt, who sends her to God’s Promise. Ruth has her own issues to deal with — the loss of Cameron’s parents, quitting her job and giving up her life in Florida to move to Montana to care for Cameron, her own medical problems — and while that doesn’t make sending Cameron away to “degay” her right, they make her a more sympathetic character. Ruth truly believed she was doing the right thing.
One of the few things I didn’t love about the book was the ending. I don’t want to get into spoilers, but I didn’t feel like it really finished. It just ended. If that’s what Danforth was going for, she did well.