Monday, November 2, 2015

Cam Girl by Leah Raeder

Cam Girl by Leah Raeder
Release Date - November 3, 2015
Publisher Website - Simon and Schuster
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 320 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received for honest review from the publisher**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Vada Bergen is broke, the black sheep of her family, and moving a thousand miles away from home for grad school, but she’s got the two things she loves most: her art and her best friend—and sometimes more—Ellis Carraway. Ellis and Vada have a friendship so consuming it’s hard to tell where one girl ends and the other begins. It’s intense. It’s a little codependent. And nothing can tear them apart.

Until an accident on an icy winter road changes everything.

Vada is left deeply scarred, both emotionally and physically. Her once-promising art career is cut short. And Ellis pulls away, unwilling to talk about that night. Everything Vada loved is gone.

She’s got nothing left to lose.

So when she meets some smooth-talking entrepreneurs who offer to set her up as a cam girl, she can’t say no. All Vada has to do is spend a couple hours each night stripping on webcam, and the “tips” come pouring in.

It’s just a kinky escape from reality until a client gets serious. “Blue” is mysterious, alluring, and more interested in Vada’s life than her body. Online, they chat intimately. Blue helps her heal. And he pays well, but he wants her all to himself. No more cam shows. It’s an easy decision: she’s starting to fall for him. But the steamier it gets, the more she craves the real man behind the keyboard. So Vada pops the question:

Can we meet IRL?

Blue agrees, on one condition. A condition that brings back a ghost from her past. Now Vada must confront the devastating secrets she's been running from—those of others, and those she's been keeping from herself...
We live in a world where everyone and everything is defined by labels. Cam Girl asks what those labels really mean, and the fluidity and range that exist within any spectrum of any label. It's a thought provoking, intense book from an author who is quickly becoming one of my favourites.

Gender and how we define it is the primary focus of Cam Girl. People can be one sex anatomically but inside feel the opposite. This not however the only focus found within these pages. Vada struggles with labels. She feels pressure to put labels on things - her sexuality, her complicated relationship with Ellis, and so much more. The pressure she feels is both outer and inner. Through her struggle we see how the pressure to define and label things can restrict someone. The need for society to fit people into boxes is at odds with someone trying to figure things out within themselves. How can they be expected to put a name to something that they are not even sure of within themselves? There is something so arbitrary about a label that feel stifling. They are at once reassuring and terrifying. That dilemma is the crux of Cam Girl's story and a important message. It asks how many of us have ever felt truly comfortable with ourselves, for a variety of reasons, and what it would be like to feel like you couldn't put words to what that feeling inside you is, even as people demand it of you.

The idea that labels are not always up to you is also woven into the narrative. People assign you a label based sometimes solely on a snapshot of what they see and experience. This adds another layer to those who are struggling to define things within themselves, and can leave someone feeling like their voice doesn't matter. Like they can't define themselves on their own terms. It brings into focus the notion that it should be someone's decision to define themselves, and that they should do it when they are comfortable and ready. It shouldn't be done on someone else's terms.

Morally conflicted, damaged characters are a staple of any Leah Raeder book. There is something so incredibly raw and honest about both Leah's writing and the characters that inhabit her books. They don't just resonate with you, they linger. They open your eyes and leave you feeling that you've glimpsed inside someone's mind - messy, uncomfortable, unflinching parts and all. It's what Leah Raeder does best, and why her books bring forth such strong feelings and opinions. She makes us confront things about ourselves, people we know, and society and does so in a bold way.

The subtle ways this is connected to Black Iris has me really excited for future books from this author. They seem like more of companion novels where characters make appearances, or we hear about them from other characters so far. The possibilities this opens up are exciting. I appreciate that it was subtly done and did not feel gimmicky. It was entirely believable that these characters would know each other and there are a few surprise connections that I loved seeing revealed.

Leah Raeder crafts powerful stories that are so incredibly human that they resonate deep within you. Her love stories have an edge, a bite to them, that I haven't seen in other books. These broken, flawed characters, and her darkly haunting world are ones I want to visit again and again. If you haven't picked up one of her books I urge you do so immediately. 

1 comment:

  1. You make some interesting point here. I'm a little bit hesitant to read this book after learning about the author's Black Iris. It isn't typically my kind of read and while I like to think I would be willing to give a book a try it sounds a little to out there for me. To be honest, it kind of scares me. I do however, think this book might be the better one to start with.


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