I am not lost…

May 11, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: CAM GIRL by Leah Raeder

CAM GIRL probably isn’t a book which would have naturally shown up on my radar. Granted, my radar is pretty shabby and doesn’t pick up a lot of stuff, but it’s still outside what most websites would recommend to me. Which is unfortunate, since this is exactly the kind of thing I find fascinating. The cam industry, much like the rest of the adult entertainment industry, isn’t something “nice people” talk about. It’s something you have to go to a distant no-windows building off of a highway exit for; it’s something you search for on your computer at two in the morning; it’s what you hide under the mattress so those around you don’t find it.

But a friend of mine from Twitter raved about it, and I said “hey, why not? Sounds like it could be good.” I bought the book almost entirely sight unseen, and dove in.

One word: wow.

Vada Bergen is an artist struggling with her physical limitations after a nasty car accident that not only stole her art from her, but also her best friend Ellis Carraway. Vada and Ellis’ relationship is anything but simple: it’s intense, it’s codependent, it’s unstable. And when Ellis is suddenly gone from Vada’s life, Vada collapses inside.

With nothing left to lose, she decides to make some money by signing up as a cam girl, and giving shows to those online willing to pay. And this is where “Blue” shows up. He’s fascinated with Vada, and willing to go above and beyond to get some time with her. But when Vada, growing more and more attached to her benefactor, asks Blue to meet up with her out in the real world…his only caveat might be a deal breaker.

This is a fascinating combination of stories. It’s not a romance, but there’s plenty of action driven by love. It’s not erotica, though there are definitely some steamy sections. I’m not quite sure where I’d place it, other than on a shelf with a bunch of other books I’m never planning on getting rid of and would absolutely recommend to anyone ever.

Through most of the book, it was sitting at a solid 4-star rating. It was a good book, solid writing, and absolutely something I’d tell people was worth reading. But nothing had really blown me away. That’s fine; lots of books I read are like that. I’ve given a bunch of 4-star reviews, and I think that’s a good place for a book to be. Not every book is going to knock you out of the water.

And then the climax of the book came.

I’m not sure if I saw it coming or not. I might have had an inkling, but enough of the rest of the book was up in the air that I wasn’t ever sure until they told me. Once that hit, the fifth star came screaming out of the night and shattered itself all over the pages of the book. NOW. Since I’ve seen some reviews that comment on this, I’ll address it as well. There’s a strong thread through the whole book about sexual identity, gender identity, and the acceptance/denial of both. Every character deals with it in a different way, and that’s fine. Personally, I am a genderqueer person born female but trending male, and who is solely sexually interested in men. I can’t necessarily relate to some of the sexuality parts, but the gender parts hit home hard. And that’s what pushed this above and beyond for me.

I love the way that it’s handled. I love the way it’s presented, and how it’s not just black and white. It’s not glossed over; it’s not treated like it’s nothing by characters who clearly would see it as something. It causes conflict, it makes the edges rough. And at the end, not all of those edges are completely smooth yet–and I LOVE THAT. So many books really want the Hollywood ending, and I enjoy seeing books that aren’t afraid to deviate from that norm.

The author, whose name is Elliot Wake outside of (some of?) his fiction, has an author’s note at the end that struck home hard with me as well. Elliot identifies as a non-binary trans masculine person. If you look at my personal Facebook page, I’ve chosen the same words for myself. We’ve approached it in two different ways, but Elliot’s words resonate very strongly with me and how I’ve felt for a good chunk of my life. Seeing him bring to life these character, treating them with the respect and attention they deserve because he knows how that feels, is something amazing. I’m looking forward to reading his other books, and I’m pretty sure there’s little I wouldn’t give for a chance to sit down, buy him a drink, and talk about the non-binary existence.

This book is dark, it’s uncomfortable, it’s filled with sharp edges, and I love every minute of it. Well done, Mr. Wake. Well done.

Rating: ***** (Highest Recommendation)

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