Published by Atria Books, Simon and Schuster Australia on November 3rd 2015
Genres: New Adult, Romance
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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...
If there’s anything I can tell you about Cam Girl, it’s that it is one hell of a confusing book. Undefinable really. Just like the characters in the story.
It gave me many conflicted thoughts about some issues that I’ve never really thought in-depth about, such as gender binary, LGBTQIA+ and the porn industry, specifically camming and dark fetishes. It raised to light so many thoughts and emotions that made me rather uncomfortable, which is what a book like this does – it shatters perceptions, and makes us think.
Vada is a Spanish girl who has conflicted emotions with her best friend, who she’s in denial about. Her best friend Ellis is gay, but as obvious as it is to everyone else, Vada just doesn’t want to admit that she’s in love with her. So instead, she constantly pushes her away, emotionally bullies her, and resorts to camming to deal with her dark thoughts. Vada isn’t a very nice person. But she’s also artistic, deeply passionate, self sabotaging and conflicted – if you don’t love yourself, you’re not capable of loving someone else.
“If two people could make each other smile and laugh and forget all the pain and darkness in the world for a moment, why should we feel ashamed of it?”
I thought her relationship with Ellis was extremely toxic, especially with how they would constantly hurt and push each other away, before passionately making up. They’re addicted to each other, so incredibly co-dependant that they can’t see what they’re doing to themselves. But that hurt, is balanced by so much love for each other, so much acceptance. These two are balls of flame, made for each other and loving each other brought out the best of the other. Vada is incredibly protective over Ellis, protecting her from everyone who would ever hurt her, including her own family. Ellis on the other hand, is sweet, intelligent and always forgiving of Vada, despite what she does to her. They’re the best and worst parts of each other, and it kind of freaked me out. There’s also lots of violence in the book which I found pretty disturbing, especially between a couple. These two have no boundaries when it comes to the way they love each other, but sometimes it went way too far.
The other part that drives Vada’s dark thoughts, is the accident that the book opens up with, which results in the death of someone. Vada is permanently disabled in her right hand, which used to create the most beautiful artwork. This leads to her self doubt and hate as well, as her passion has now been taken away from her. I wish there was more surrounding the slight disability in the book.
How fucked-up was it that my confidence came from dumping the blame on some poor suicidal gay boy and jerking off for some stranger on the Internet?
So instead of art, she finds herself falling into the porn industry – by camming for sexual entertainment. This is where I felt pretty uncomfortable. It’s spoken about in this really empowering way, that these females are controlling who they talk to and what they do as a feminist movement, rather than breaking into modelling or acting which is dictated by males. But at the end of the day, you’re still doing what you’re doing for male (and some female) entertainment, so I wasn’t in agreement with that side of the story. I also found the fetish side of Cam Girl to be quite horrifying, especially where choking yourself/each other is heavily featured as a sexual fetish. In the book it’s spoken about as something so incredibly exhilarating, but the dangers of it was never really emphasised. Don’t try this at home, kids.
Even after all of this, I haven’t touched upon what the book is essentially about. It’s about Vada’s internalised misogyny and how she constantly hates the side of her that loves girls, and her best friend. It’s about gender binary and how clinging onto the ideas we’ve formed around male/female identities can be harming to the LGBTQIA+ community. It’s also about how at the end of the day, sexual orientation, sexual identity – none of it really matters if you’ve found love.
All you really need to do, is learn to accept yourself.
Cam Girl is a dark, intoxicating read about some important issues in the LGBTQIA+ community, particularly when it comes to identity and acceptance. It was an eye-opening read that placed these issues front and center and really makes us think about it. Although it was compelling, I was quite disturbed by much of the book especially the portrayal of a toxic relationship. An important book, but definitely one that isn’t for everyone.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Thank you Simon and Schuster Australia for sending me a review copy of this book.