Book Review: Cam Girl by Leah Raeder

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Title: Cam Girl
Author: Leah Raeder @leah_raeder
Genre: New Adult
Length: 415 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars

Synopsis

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.

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“I’m sorry I broke your heart.”
“Yo también, pajarito. Maybe we needed to break a little, so we could put ourselves back together more beautifully than before.”

Do you ever read a book and at the end of it you feel speechless and the only thing you can think so say is “WOW!”? That’s how I felt at the end of Cam Girl. And it’s a book I probably wouldn’t have read if I hadn’t been speed reading through the synopsis on Netgalley when I requested it because my brain did not pick up on one very important detail and I assumed Ellis was a guy. F/F isn’t usually something I seek out when I’m looking for a book. F/M yes. M/M hell yes. M/F/M absolutely. But for some reason I’d never really gotten into F/F. However the more I started reading the more I became invested in this story and when I was done I couldn’t have been happier that my brain skipped right over that detail and I took a chance on something I might not have otherwise.

“My love is savage and rapacious. It isn’t content to touch. It wants to be inside, crawl into the marrow, caress each vein until the cells are all mixed up and there is no you and me anymore, no secrets or shadows sliding between our skin. Only this endless devouring of each other.”

There is something about Leah’s writing that is mesmerizing. I haven’t highlighted so many quotes since Cole McCade’s The Lost. It was like word porn to me. There was an elegance to the way she put words together that gave everything a sort of lyrical quality, like when she described tears running down someone’s face as “two glass threads” or moonlight as “strands of tinsel” or a car accident as “a burst of black petals, water flowering all around us in inky dark bouquets.” She can make something sad, mundane or horrific sound almost beautiful, and the entire book was filled with the kind of spellbinding writing that draws you in. Leah was able to take a story with heavy topics and raw, intense emotions and paint an ethereal picture with her words.

“Sometimes I bought into the black-and-white mentality, too. It was easier, picking a side. Not fighting to be recognised as a fluid, nuanced individual, but simply accepting a premade label, a prefab identity.”

But more than the writing was the story itself. A criticism I’ve had with NA as a genre is the glaring lack of diversity. The characters are usually straight, usually white, and usually physically “perfect”. Cam Girl was different from anything I’d read before in this genre. It wasn’t just some F/F romance. It was so much more. Vada is of mixed ethnicity, she’s physically scarred from her accident, and she feels a connection with her best friend Ellis that may go beyond friendship. It gets you to question how we define not only sexuality but gender as well because, like sexuality, gender can be a very fluid thing for a person. What does it mean to be straight? What does it mean to be gay? What does it mean to be a man or a woman and who gets to decide how we see ourselves? The answers are never black and white, either/or, and a person rarely fits into one single box that society so often wants to put us in. While I was able to predict certain plot points, it in no way detracted from the story or the emotional impact of Cam Girl. This was an unconventional love story in a genre that sorely needs something unconventional and I want to praise Leah Raeder for being bold enough to write something like with the care, sensitivity me and the grace that it deserves.

– Rachel

*An ARC was received from the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.

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