Monday, January 9, 2017

Review of Cam Girl by Elliot Wake

Title: Cam Girl
Author: Elliot Wake (writing as Leah Raeder)
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: November 3rd, 2015!

From Goodreads...
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..

My Review!
*Spoilers, so beware!

Absurdly good, as are all Elliot's books. Still pushing the boundaries, still changing my ideas about gender and sex and sexuality. I just, didn't always love Vada. I don't think we're meant to. She's not a nice character. She's selfish, unbelievably oblivious sometimes, and she let her fear of what society said was okay and not okay break hers and Ellis' hearts time and time again. But I could understand her, and even relate a little, and by the end, I was really appreciative with the way Vada's hangups over labels and looks brought to light so much that needs to change about the world. Gender is fluid. Sexuality is fluid. Sex is not the same as gender. And this is something that is so present throughout this book, with the beautiful prose and brutally honest narrative that Elliot is known for. And don't worry, I haven't forgotten Ellis. Sensitive, quiet, nerdy Ellis who was going through their own hangups. But you don't get to see them, unfortunately, because this book is not dual POV (and that really made me sad given Ellis was my fave character). Though, there was a reason for it. 

So, I ended up reading Bad Boy and spoiling myself over the biggest "twist" of this story. [The fact that this isn't something revealed until the MC finds out the truth is also why it's in a spoiler tag. I don't want to ruin it for anyone!] Because, I kind of ruined some things for myself? Because I knew Ellis was Blue, it changed the way I viewed that part of the book. And because of it, I could see Ellis in the way Blue spoke, what Blue said, and how they talked to each other. But Vada couldn't, and sometimes I thought she should've known. She's shared the same breath as Ellis for YEARS. It was right in front of her face. She kept shaking it off, even when evidence was presented to her, even when she THOUGHT it. Like I said, she could be incredibly oblivious. And I didn't always like how she treated Ellis. But I could understand Vada's anger when she found out, because Ellis DID string her along. Though Ellis was also being their truest self, they did sort of, manipulate, Vada through Blue. (Also using the pronouns of they because Ellis is genderfluid). Their relationship definitely wasn't perfect, and they were both struggling with identity issues, but I loved watching them find their way back to each other. For all its faults, their love is the one thing that makes both of them feel... whole.

I was not always happy about the car accident storyline because I thought it took away from Vada and Ellis needing to dig deep into their relationship and fix it, but after everything came together, and truths come to light, it all fit. And it was heartbreaking, and even more so after reading the acknowledgements. Because this happens too often. Kids, and adults, forced to conform to society's ideals and expectations, shamed and shunned from family and friends if they choose to not keep their real selves hidden. People are still so damn stubborn and awful and won't accept what doesn't fit the confining boxes they place others in. I'm glad books like these are out there, to reach those who need them, and those who could do with their black-and-white view of the world being shattered. I didn't always like parts of the story, in regards to the accident, especially when it started to veer into a suspense book. And it did take a REALLY long time before all of the secrets and truth spilled out. But I did like how Vada's disability played a part in the story too (though it could've had more focus, for sure), because when she got to ending? Man, it was beautiful.

Well, I hadn't expected to write so much. Haha. I had quite a bit of thoughts on this book! Cam Girl wasn't my favorite of Elliot's books, but that didn't stop me from thoroughly enjoying it. I loved the characters (well, most of the time in Vada's case :p), including the secondary ones such as Dane and Frankie. I wasn't like a fan of Max, at all. I understood his grief and his pain, and he provided Vada a shelter against the loneliness that was clawing its way into the darkest corners of her depression. But he was a broken man, trying to find solace, and he didn't always go about anything in the best way. I think that's one of the things I like most about Elliot's books, though. The characters are never all good or bad; they LIVE in the gray area of life. It's their home. And it reflects the real world so much. I'm unsure whether reading this before Bad Boy would have made me love it better. And that's something I won't ever know. But as a standalone, something far removed from the Black Iris crowd, I think I was able to appreciate it more. Because I was able to separate the mystery from the story, and I focused more on the relationship between Vada and Ellis, and what made them, as cliche as it sounds, fit together so well.


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