I was slightly hesitant to read The Miseducation of Cameron Post. The synopsis sounded like a cliche "orphaned girl, likes girls, gets sent to anti-gay school, learns hard lessons" tragedy. I had gotten a little dismayed that so many of the LGBT young adult novels that I've read have been very doom and gloom and didn't really want to read another downer (can't there be a happy ending and maybe a less tragic love story for these protagonists?). Having heard some of the horrific stories of ex-gay/de-gaying camps, I was really concerned this would be a focal point for the book and I really wasn't interested in that storyline.
I needed a long book to listen to on a long drive so I decided to go for it since the duration would be just about perfect for the whole trip.
It took me a little while to really get a feeling for the flow and structure of the book but the story was certainly engaging from the start. The language used was really fantastic and largely felt authentic, though there were moments that didn't feel quite right, but they were few and far between.
I was pleasantly surprised that there was a lot of time spent learning about Cameron and watching her her loves (or lusts) develop over the years and it wasn't largely about her experiences at "God's Promise" (and these experiences were far from the physically abusive scenarios that are sometimes connected to ex-gay camps). Some of the story lines I'd wish had been expanded upon but it was a really nice listen (and I ultimately actually got the book to read a second time).
Beth Laufer did a nice job telling this story--her timber and tone were so pleasant to listen to and the various characters were voiced really nicely.
I was not in love with the ending of the book--it just felt like the author rudely left me hanging, but it wasn't so offensive that it ruined the book for me. I still really enjoyed the book, though it wasn't one of the books that left me thinking about it for days, weeks, and months afterward (if I could have given 3.5 stars, that would probably be more accurate of a rating).
There was so much I liked about Ask the Passengers--it was so close to getting 5 stars. It's not ground breaking in any way but it is a really enjoyable book that has some great characters, writing, and storytelling.
My biggest complaint is actually the idea of her sending love to the passengers. I felt the little afterthoughts/snippets/side-notes that appeared about specific passengers periodically really detracted from an otherwise rich narrative. I felt like these pieces (and most of the bits about the planes in general) were forced and gimmicky--and actually took away from the rest of the story. The story would have held together (and for me would have been better) without this side interest. Though minor points are added in for the final passenger sort of pulling it all together. I felt like the Socrates and Allegory of the Cave was enough of a shadow throughout the book that there didn't need to be another "side note" throughout the book (I also felt the Socrates thread worked better and didn't detract from the story like the passengers did).
One of the things I did enjoy was that while Astrid's family was surely dysfunctional (a pot-head dad, a mom too worried about how she/the family is perceived, and a sister who struggled with her own challenges and turned into a bit of a jerk at times), it's not the typical horribly tragic home life or back story that often accompany YA novels (or often YA LGBTQ novels). Though some of these interactions bordered on the unrealistic to me, it was overall well done.
I really struggled with Astrid's very quick forgiveness of some characters (being vague to avoid spoilers) after some serious betrayals. It just seemed, given the infractions, that realistically it would have taken more time to forgive and move on (though I don't find it unreasonable for her to forgive the person, just the ease at which it happens).
There was a lot to like about Astrid herself and a lot to relate to (whether someone is straight, LGBTQ, or somewhere in between)--she wanted to do things on her own terms, she advocated for herself when she felt things going too quickly with Dee, it felt like she had a good head on her shoulders (even if she didn't always listen to her instincts), she sometimes struggled trying to figure things out, and makes some pretty profound statements throughout the book. So much to relate to!
I think Astrid's process of discovering who she is and her frustrations with labels and boxes is absolutely relatable to many people. She doesn't want to be pigeonholed--especially because she's just starting discover her sexuality and is not sure what she is. Yes, she has fallen in love with a girl--but does that mean she would fall in love with another girl?
I will say that I would have like to have seen a little more depth to the relationship between Dee and Astrid. There were moments, that I didn't really understand why they were even together--thee just didn't seem to be a ton of depth to their relationship. I wanted to explore a bit more of their friendship and bond--what were the things they liked to do together outside of work, what made them want to be together other than convenience? Though I do appreciate the fact that they actually talk about having sex, what it means, and decide whether they are ready.
Overall, I think this book is absolutely worth the read!