Thursday, October 13, 2016

Review: Cam Girl by Leah Raeder

Title: Cam Girl

Author: Leah Raeder

Rating: 4 Stars

I never know what to say about a Leah Raeder novel. It made me uncomfortable. It was difficult to read because I kept wanting to stop, to leave these messy, unlikable characters with their dark flaws in the pages of the book. It made me think, late into the night, unable to make sense of myself, the characters, or the world. And all of these are good. It is so rare to find a book that makes me reflect, that forces me to take a long time anguishing over the language, that genuinely shoves me outside of my comfort zone.

I both love and hate Raeder for her ability to do this; I relate to aspects of her novels, always, but I always want them to be a little less dark and messy and them so they can fit into the tropes I know and am comfortable with. I am so very glad that Raeder does not do this disservice. Not to me and not to her readers. She writes the stories she wants to write--the stories she wishes were being told--and I applaud her for that. Plus, her prose is gorgeous and the topics she tackles are hard-hitting and challenging to understand and discuss in a complex manner, which she always manages to do. It's so rare to see queer characters--those who identify along the spectrum of "queer" and do not always fit into the categories of LGBT but rather LGBTQIA--and I am so grateful that Raeder writes the diverse stories she does.

This doesn't mean that I loved Cam Girl without reservation or would even read it again--I wouldn't--but it does mean that it made me re-consider a wide range of topics I simply hadn't spent too much time thinking about. Whether it be gender, sexuality, or the sex trade, Raeder covers so much in this novel--densely packing it with meaning and feeling--and I can't really describe or fully discuss it without ruining the story. Raeder almost has too much going on--Vada, the main character loses function of her right hand in a car accident, disabling her for life and ending the career she thought she had as an artist. But Vada is also in love with her best friend, Ellis, yet she clings on to the hope of a future where she marries a man. And then Vada and Ellis have a falling out--over Vada, the accident, the true story of that night--and Vada is approached by two young entrepreneurs to cam for them. From there, the story only gets more complicated--Vada's empowerment and agency through her role as a cam girl, her feelings for Ellis which won't abate, her involvement with Max, the father of the boy who was killed the night of the accident, and then her late-night chats with "Blue" who pays her for her time and thoughts, not her camming skills.

It's intense, it's messy, and I wish Raeder had taken on a little less, only so that I could fully wrap my mind around it all. But, it works. It definitely works and its message is strong, beautiful, and full of hope. Needless to say, for readers familiar with Raeder's work and her brand of dark--as in mentally, emotionally dark, going to places you won't be familiar with, necessarily--and fans of Black Iris, Raeder's latest is definitely up your alley. I'd suggest readers new to Raeder's work to pick up Unteachable first--it's the most heteronormative and familiar of her works to other New Adult tropes--but if you're looking for New Adult that explores disability and difficult topics of LGBTQIA then this is a must-read. I don't look forward, necessarily, to what Raeder is putting out next but I'm eager to pick up yet another thought-provoking, emotional read by her.

I just want to add a quick note that I am aware that Leah Raeder now goes by the name Elliot Wake and that Elliot also now uses the pronouns he/him/his. However, when I wrote this review it was before Leah had begun publishing books under the name Elliot, hence the different pronouns/names in this review. I mean absolutely no disrespect to Elliot Wake but as Elliot has continued to use his previous name on the covers of his older titles, I assumed it would be alright to use the name Leah and the pronouns she/her/hers, as when I wrote this review. If anyone knows otherwise, let me know and I will absolutely change it.


  1. I've been so scared of her books so I've been staying away. I'm not ready for the angst fest, to be honest. I'm glad you enjoyed this one, though!

  2. I love LGBT+ books and it sounds like this one does a bit more than you normally see, which is great. Thanks so much for sharing. While it does sound like a lot is happening, and it's all very dark/intense, I'm glad you felt it worked overall.

  3. I am not big on the emotional ones, the one with raw subjects, cos....dunno really

  4. I don't read too many books that push my boundaries but I have read two of his and hope to read this one soon.

  5. First, I think you are fine with the pronouns as you weren't being disrespectful, but thoughtful in what you said. Of course, individuals can think otherwise. Now this one really appeals to me with the disability angle. It's not that I don't like the LGBTQIA angle (I do) but we, for some reason, don't get that angle. However, to combine the two really make me curious about the book. My only hesitation is the emotional angle, but then how could you have a book like this without a lot of emotion? Oh you have put me on the fence with this one. I do think I'll mark it when I'm in the mood for something to really make me think. Brilly review!!!

  6. I was blown away by this review when you published it on GR, and I said about it back in April. Such a beautifully written review.

  7. I'm not one for an really messy, emotional read. Just not my thing to read something that is painful or makes me feel awful. Glad you found this stimulating and thought provoking, Keertana! Wonderful review! :)

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