I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Cam Girl by Leah Raeder
Published by Atria Books on November 3rd 2015
Genres: New Adult
Amazon・ Good Books・Book Depository
Trigger Warning: Trigger warning: emotional abuse, attempted suicide
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...
Hi! Remember me? I’m Meg, I used to review here before life got kind of overwhelming off the internet and I had to take a break to deal with all of that. Anyway, I’m back now and I’m going to tell you about Cam Girl by Leah Raeder, which is probably the best book I’ve ever had such an incredibly hard time reading.
I’ve been sitting on this review for awhile now, partially due to the aforementioned life stuff but also because I wasn’t sure how to talk about it and if I wanted to fully explain what my issues were. Lucky for you guys, it seems like I’m a chronic over-sharer so buckle up kids, here we go.
Before I get into my issues, let me just say that this book is amazing in many ways and I really do think everyone should read it. If for no other reason, I think it’s super important to tell stories that talk about mental health/sexuality issues, especially messy, fucked up stories because life is messy and fucked up.
The writing is absolutely gorgeous as I have come to fully expect from Leah Raeder. She* knows her way around a metaphor and her writing remains as beautifully lyrical and bitingly witty as ever. (*I say she but please note, pronouns are TBD and also Leah is my hero)
This is what they don’t tell you about losing someone: It doesn’t happen once. It happens every day, every moment they’re missing from. You lose them a hundred times between waking and sleep, and even sleep is no respite, because you lose them in your dreams, too.
This world is so thick with ghosts it’s a wonder anyone can breathe.
I dream of you in colors that don’t exist.
Cam Girl also features her usual cast of deeply flawed, varying levels of self destructive and achingly real characters. I feel like all of my Leah Raedar reviews are basically the same: incredible prose, intense characters and character relationships, twisted, murky plots, I love it. To say Leah can write is like saying water is wet at this point.
There are complicated, destructive relationships, vibrant side characters, tangled murky plots, cameos from some of my favs, deeply on point truths, serious issues and brilliant insight. The sexy stuff is as gorgeous and hot as usual (though some of the cam stuff gets into breath play which is not my personal kink). You know, all of the things I love so much about Leah Raeder books. With all of that, what could go wrong?
[Disclaimer, I will avoid any explicit spoilers but if you’re a I MUST KNOW NOTHING kind of reader, this is your point of no return]
[You’ve been warned.]
[Speaking of trigger warnings, there should probably be some sort of abuse trigger warning on all of this, especially applied to the spoiler tag below]
Basically, I had massive problems with the main relationship and I would like to preface this by saying all of my most major issues are tied up in personal experiences so this is entirely subjective, but I’m too tied up in this to analyze it from an objective angle. I had a lengthy debate with myself over whether or not it’s fair to rate/review stuff from such a personal perspective and ultimately came to the conclusion that fuck it, blogging is personal, shit happens, whatever (something like that and oh hey look I’m stalling).
For context, when I was in high school I was in a really fucked up relationship. Neither one of us were in particularly good places in our heads and this was compounded by some shit on his end that I don’t have a right to get into. The situation was emphatically not good and we were very toxic and there were things that went down that I will never go through again.
Okay, so, Vada and Ellis. They were super adorable in many ways. I really wanted to ship them. They’re there for each other while they both go through some major shit together and talk about their issues and (mostly) work together/support each other and that’s my ship crack. Unfortunately, they’re also really fucked up. This isn’t a guaranteed deal breaker for me because many of my ships (including some of my OTPs) are, arguably, deeply fucked up and unhealthy, but Vada and Ellis’ brand of fucked up hit closer to home than I was remotely prepared for.
Early on, Vada shows up at Ellis’ house and drunkenly self-destructs outward in a scene that I swear to god was straight out of my life and from then on, I was never able to see Vada as an independent character but as an extension of this guy. Every time I’d start to get over it, she would say or do something that would bring it all back and it colored how I viewed the character and all of their interactions. Instead of seeing Vada as a broken, desperate person trying to put herself back together as I believe I was supposed to, all I could see was her emotionally manipulating Ellis and dragging her down with her (which isn’t even a remotely fair assessment because Ellis pulled a few not super awesome moves herself). This culminated with a revelation at the end that I knew was coming because I’ve been there. MAJOR SPOILER CLICK AT YOUR OWN RISK View Spoiler »
Because of said culminating event and personal experience, I could not wrap my head around the end of the book or accept it even a little bit. I understand that characters exist within their narrative and their story is not remotely related to mine and people are different and blah, blah blah, but, alas, it was not enough.
After talking it through with a friend, I realized I am also kind of troubled by the resolution of the car crash storyline as it related to Ryan. It left me feeling like that aspect was ultimately more of a plot device in the story of Vada and Ellis (which, to be fair, makes sense as Cam Girl is their story more than anyone else’s) and that didn’t sit right with me but honestly at that point I can’t tell you how rationally I was thinking about things.
I think that, personal issues aside, my biggest criticism is that I wish the stuff that came into play in the last 20% were a larger part of the book instead of the grand finale. Much like Vada and Ellis’ relationship, so much of the book focused on Vada and Vada’s issues and how she dealt with them and I was not here for that. I do think Vada’s issues are important: grappling with a life altering accident and disability, grappling with sexuality, grappling with depression, all of these things are absolutely stories that need to be told. However, from the start, I was much more sympathetic to Ellis and far more wrapped up in the lives Vada touched than Vada herself and I felt like those stories didn’t become front and center until the end and I wish that had happened sooner.
That said, I have issues judging a book for what I wish it was instead of what it is (my personal take is that a book is what the author made it, what I wish the author made it is a personal problem, it’s not my call) so I don’t think that’s necessarily something I can hold against it. I don’t know, much like the book itself, trying to figure out how to review it and what to rate it gave me a lot of conflicting feelings. I appreciate books that give me massive mental conflict, even if part of that mental conflict is that parts didn’t sit right with me because that means they’re resonating in my mind, they’re making me think and feel. I love things that make me react, even when that reaction is negative.
So, there you have it. Cam Girl is an amazing book in many ways and a really fucked up terrible one in a lot of others. I still highly recommend giving it a shot if none of the above gave you triggery feelings because it really is fantastic and beautiful and important. I am definitely keeping Leah Raeder on my autobuy list and plan to eventually reread Cam Girl with my defenses up to see how my reading experience goes when I know what’s coming.