Miseducation of Cameron Post Film (2018)

Hello dear readers, and before I get into this review, I wanted to get some housekeeping out of the way. I apologize for my extended and unannounced absence, and I’m hoping y’all could forgive me. I’m officially back and ready to bless your reader boards with some great queer content! I’m developing a posting schedule at the moment, and ask for your patience as I figure out what days and times are going to work best. Thank you!

Additionally, some of you might be asking “Hey Nyla, isn’t this a BOOK blog? Why would you post a review of a movie?!” and my answer to that would be: Follow me on Twitter!

Haha, jokes aside, my Twitter account is a great way to be more involved in what I post here on the blog. I posted a poll a while back asking if my followers would be interested in movie reviews, given the movies were adapted from queer novels, and the response was a resounding yes! You can find my account by either clicking on the lovely Twitter bird icon in the sidebar, or clicking this link. Or you could try the old fashioned way of searching by typing linn_nyla in the search bar.

Now, without further ado, the review!

Warnings (spoilers ahead):

  • Sexual Content: Three semi-graphic sexual encounters between underage (~16 years) girls, typically around a minute in length of time. There is no genital nudity but one character does have her top removed during one scene, exposing her breasts. These encounters are consensual. One scene involving an imaginary fantasy (dream sequence) between an underage girl (~16 years) and her teacher that does not go further than kissing. Some light jokes of implied sexual nature between teens (~16-17 years).
  • Drugs and Alcohol: Semi-frequent recreational marijuana use by teens (~16-17 years) throughout the film, though it is not a major highlight nor very explicit in nature.
  • Homophobia: Because the premise of the film is set in a conversion camp/school setting, there are frequent depictions of homophobia both internalized and from outside forces, primarily in a religious (Christian) context; while many characters support this belief system, the main character and her allies question and speak against this treatment.
  • Depiction of Mental Health: Homosexuality or fluid gender identity are treated as a mental illness by some characters in the film and queer characters receive therapy to correct this perceived illness; a character who is not the protagonist self-harms in a graphic but off-screen manner and is hospitalized as a result which is discussed in-depth by characters on-screen

Review:

As readers of this blog will know, The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2012) is my favorite book and when I tell you I was excited to learn there was a movie in the works, it’s a huge understatement. I love Chloë Grace Moretz and I think she makes the perfect Cameron.

The film, directed by Desiree Akhavan, was stunning with heartfelt performances from the cast and a gorgeously relevant soundtrack. It hit me hard in “the feels” and I felt just as connected to Cameron as ever. As someone who grew up in the Christian faith, a lot of the struggles Cameron faces and the rhetoric used by those in power is very relatable—too relatable at times. There were times during both viewings that I questioned myself and my identity, falling back into old habits and views of the “sin” that I live in.

Luckily, though, the film brought these feelings full circle and put them in their place. By the end of the movie I felt more confident in my queer identity, and remember that there are people in the world I can trust.

So was the movie good? Absolutely. But this is a literature blog, so let’s return to our roots. How does the movie compare to the book?

I’ll say that, for what the movie depicts, it did a very close job. From Cameron’s arrival to the “God’s Promise” facility, to the end, it’s almost a page to screen comparison. The tone is there, the characters match, and some of the lines are pulled directly from the book.

However, one gripe I do have is that the entire first half of the book is cut. I understand the need to make adjustments for time when switching genres, but some of the integral parts to Cameron’s queer identity got left in the dust. She becomes a flatter version of herself, and while it still works great for the film as a film, when viewed next to book!Cameron, it’s obvious which one has more substance.

Additionally, some of my favorite character relationships didn’t make it into the movie. Cameron’s grandmother is completely cut out of the story, and her friendship with Jamie is reduced to “the boyfriend who I cheated on with a girl” and he’s more of an antagonist than the ally he was in the book. Not to mention her past romantic relationships or complicated feelings about her parents. Obviously some changes needed to be made to work as a film, but as a reader of the book, there were some parts that I really missed.

All in all, though, I think Akhavan did an amazing job and I’m so happy to see queer women in the film industry shining brightly. I would absolutely recommend this movie to anyone, readers and non-readers, lesbians and non-lesbians, anyone, really. It’s an emotional watch but a sincere one, and I enjoyed it.

You can buy it on Amazon here and here is a trailer if you’re interested!

Also, if you haven’t read the book yet (or even if you have) you can read my review here.

Sincerely Yours,

Nyla Linn (She/Her)

Rating: ★★★★ (4 stars) 

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Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden (1982)

Warnings: 

  • Homophobia: Written in the late 70’s, this book contains an expected level of homophobia from peers and teachers in a private, religious school system; there are allies in the novel seen in a few teachers, outside forces who influence the school, and in the protagonists family; an older couple faces employment discrimination and are fired for their relationship and described by other characters as “wrong” for that relationship
  • Sexual Content: very mild, non-explicitly detailed off screen scene that is referenced a few times after the fact in a negative light by characters trying to prove the protagonist is gay
  • Alcohol and Drugs: very few scenes of underage characters drinking alcohol in a relatively responsible manner; no mention of drug usage by any persons

Review:

Annie on My Mind is a story of young love in an unwelcoming society, often described as a landmark for LGBTQ literature. The protagonist, Liza, meets a girl in a museum and feels an instant connection to her. They spend more time together, eventually developing a relationship, all while Liza is attempting to keep her image clean as the student body president. The school is facing a tough time financially, and as one of the fundraising campaign leaders, she is implored to represent her school in the best possible light.

Because this novel was written and set in the late 1970’s/early 80’s, Liza does face some discrimination for her sexuality once she is found out. Despite this, the book ends with a happy ending, one of the first of its kind to do so.

I had the fortunate luck to receive a copy including an interview with the author, Nancy Garden. In this interview, she discusses the climate at the time she wrote the novel and the reception to it after it was released. The book is in the top 50 of the Top 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books, since a lot of schools took issue with the same-sex relationship within it. I think the interview may have been my favorite part of the book, and I would urge any young queer people who want a firsthand account of growing up gay in the 50’s and onwards to look for it.

Overall, I think this book is a must-read for young LGBTQ individuals who want to connect more with their community history, or don’t know much about it at all. Despite the homophobia, it’s a relatively light and easy read with plenty of wholesome moments and love to combat the less accepting characters in the novel.

My favorite part of the novel was the (somewhat reluctant) acceptance of Liza’s sexuality by her family. Although her parents are hesitant and afraid of the societal backlash she may receive, they both stand up for Liza and offer her their unconditional love and support. Her younger brother, even more abundantly so, is the first person Liza comes out to outside of her girlfriend. He takes it with grace and is the first person to show her real support, in a string of heartwarming moments that give her the confidence necessary to begin to accept herself.

While I did love the book, and especially the impact it had historically as one of the first to show a lesbian relationship that did not end in tragedy or a heterosexual romance, from a solely literary standpoint, it was pretty average. The writing didn’t stand out much, and it traded a full plot for a syrupy sweet romance-focused novel that didn’t really go anywhere. I would have liked to see more of Liza’s character outside of her relationship with Annie and her struggle with being gay. Still, though, it was a sweet book, so I’d recommend.

Sincerely yours,

Nyla Linn (She/Her)

Rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth (2012):

Warnings (some spoilers): 

  • Sexual Content: Two consensual semi-graphic sexual scenes between underage girls (ages 15-16 yo); a few light-hearted references to  sexual encounters both real and imaginary; brief, non-explicit recounting of a sexual encounter between an adult man and an underage boy acting as a sex worker
  • Drugs and Alcohol: Frequent use of alcohol by underage individuals (ages 14-16) as a social activity; frequent use of cannabis/weed by young teens (ages 14-17) for recreational purposes 
  • Homophobia: Overtly expressed homophobia within the context of Christianity throughout the course of the novel; teens are exposed to conversion therapy and made to deny their identity to serve the Christian God in an enclosed setting; this is directly questioned by the protagonist and other characters  
  • Depiction of Mental Health: homosexuality or fluid gender identity are treated as a mental illness by some characters in the novel and queer characters receive therapy to correct this perceived illness; the protagonist is not diagnosed but shows some symptoms of depression; a character who is not the protagonist self harms in a graphic but off-screen manner and is hospitalized as a result
  • Character Death: Two characters die in an off-screen car accident early in the novel

Review: 

The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Cam Post)is a novel by Emily M. Danforth about the young protagonist, Cameron, struggling with her sexuality in the midsts of the early nineties with the added complications of the death of her parents and her religious community. The novel follows Cameron from middle school to high school, documenting her relationships and growth as a teenage lesbian in Montana, and her eventual relocation to a school dedicated to leading her away from a life of homosexuality to one closer to God. Despite the grim setting and subject matter of the story, Danforth keeps the overall tone relatively light and fills the story with the sarcastic and lovable voice of the protagonist while creating a perfect portrait of youthful nostalgia. Full of old video rentals, not-quite-over-exaggerated religious practices, and teenage rebellion, The Miseducation of Cameron Post presents a fresh take on the story of a person finding herself in a world where nothing seems to fit.

The copy of Cam Post that I own is well-worn and weathered, many pages bent at the corners and some wavy with water damage from the rain. Most of this can be chalked up to the book being one I bought used, but some portion of its rough (loved?) condition is due to my own hands rifling through the pages for the past few years. Rereading the novel this most recent time only cemented something I already knew: The Miseducation of Cameron Post is my favorite book.

With a delicate quill dipped in badassery, Danforth masterfully connects with and navigates the teenage experience, talking through Cameron with just the right touch of sarcasm, humor, and angst. Like many teens, Cameron is finding her identity and place in the world, and more specifically, like many queer teens, this identity isn’t exactly what is expected of her and is constantly being compromised by the girls she falls for.

The most standout element of Danforth’s style, in my opinion, is how effortlessly she weaves in concrete, juicy, speaking-directly-to-the-senses details that bring her readers into the story, into the moment, and into Cameron’s head. Although I was a decade too late to grow up in the early 90s, Danforth slips me into 1989 Miles City, Montana, with ease from the first page onward. The nostalgia for childhood summers that don’t belong to me seeps into my skin, inked in by Danforth’s hand.

Emotionally driven, Danforth manages to capture feelings I, myself, can never put into words and takes the too-big-to-explain concept of what it’s like to grow up as a lesbian in a conservative area and makes it tangible for those who haven’t experienced it. I never feel more connected to my identity, history, and community as I do when I read through Cameron’s story.

Throughout The Miseducation of Cameron Post, the lead character, Cameron, faces harsh obstacles. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Cameron remains resilient, strong, and even retains her dark sense of humor throughout the book, and it is because of this that the book isn’t overwhelmingly depressing. Cameron goes through a lot (a lot), but the reader is spared the brunt of the heaviness due to the voice Danforth cultivated for Cam. She is a stubborn, witty, sarcastic character who takes the time to notice the small things that make life a little less bad: a loose strand of Christmas lights, cheesy movies, pretty girls—and pissing her aunt off. Even when she’s subjected to the exhausting tearing away of her personhood by God’s Promise Christian School and Center for Healing, she continues to rebel in both her actions and mind, never forgetting herself no matter how lost she feels.

Her perseverance and “screw you” attitude is what makes Cameron Post as a character. She’s so realistic, so tangible to me. She never apologizes for liking girls—her only regret is being found out. Danforth makes it clear through Cameron’s story that the adversity we might face in life doesn’t mean we’re wrong for being who we are and loving who we love.

Overall I think The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a worthwhile read for anyone, but most specifically for teen/young adult queer/gay girls looking for someone to understand them, because I think that necessary understanding and comfort through similar circumstances is exactly what Cam Post provides. Like Danforth quotes on her website, “when anyone asks what a story is about, the only proper thing is to tell him to read the story” (Mystery Manners, Flannery O’Connor), and so, I urge anyone with an interest in coming-of-age stories, LGBTQ experiences, or great works of fiction in general: pick up a copy of this book and have a look for yourself!

Sincerely yours, 

Nyla Linn (She/Her) 

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)