Title: Cam Girl

Author: Leah Raeder ♥ @leahraeder

Expected Publication:
November 3, 2015

Publisher: Atria Books

Pages: 320

Genres: New Adult ♥ Contemporary ♥ Romance ♥ GLBT

Source: NetGalley

Summary 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…

Average Goodreads Rating (as of 11/01/2015): 4.14

  • Christina thought this title was mesmerizing. It goes on her TOP SHELF. To find out why…

**SPECIAL NOTE:**An eARC of this title was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. However, that did not influence this review in any way. All thoughts, quotes, and opinions will be of this version and not of the published edition.

Quick Thoughts and Rating:
4.5 stars! Exceptional, as always! Raeder is an envelope-pusher, a thought-provoker, and she doesn’t even try to straddle the line of making her reader uncomfortable, she’d rather leap right over it. But that’s okay, it’s because of her stories that I think people will be forced to grow and/or find a safe haven in a world full of judgement and misunderstanding.

Cam Girl, like all of this author’s books, is a novel that explores every facet of love, gender identity, and the dark side of humanity, in ourselves and strangers, that most pretend doesn’t inhabit their minds. For me, it’s like this author slits her wrists and lets her soul pour out on the paper for people to read. Her words are a visceral experience into a world that many authors won’t/don’t know how to/are afraid to traverse, but inevitably leads to more in-depth discussions. Raeder needs to keep writing, so people can keep talking. I think she’s a valuable asset to not only the LGBTQIA+ community, but to everyone who is willing to open themselves up and really absorb what she’s trying to share.

The Lowdown: Once upon a time, Vada was an art student with an undeniable talent and a promising future. She had an amazing best friend, Ellis, who she also happened to share a confusing kind of love with, though their connection was anything but questionable. Until the night she lost it all- her passion and career, her best friend and lover, and a young boy was killed. Months later, when she’s at rock bottom and two entrepreneurs approach her about being a cam girl, and with everything she cared about already gone, she figures why the hell not, at least this way she won’t be living on the street. However, it’s through this business that Ellis comes back into her life and someone new emerges, too.

But everyone in this story is holding on to lies and half-truths, about the car accident that took everything away and so much more. It’s only a matter of who will be honest first? Who will hurt whom more? And if anyone can walk away truly unscathed?

     “I want to feel it. I want to feel the way you feel, Vada.”
     “No, you don’t. Physical pain isn’t better than emotional. It all sucks.”
~quote taken from the eARC of Cam Girl at 12%

Review: WARNING, this “review” will likely fall far from the parameters of an actual review and lean somewhere closer to word vomit, something that always seems to happen when I discuss Raeder and her books. Her novels always seem to be somewhat of a riptide for me, dragging me under and sucking me out to the sea, and when I finally emerge on the other side, at the end, it takes me weeks to navigate the fog of my brain to form coherent thoughts. In other words, her stories are mindf*cks of the highest order and leave me, in essence, with the perfect example of a book hangover. So, having finished this at shortly after midnight and thinking about it for hours afterward until I finally drifted off to sleep, I hope you can understand that I’m still trudging through sleep deprivation and the murkiness of my thoughts, so it will likely be months before any of my reflections will even make sense (and after I’ve undoubtedly tweaked this review a billion times). Alas, Cam Girl is one of those books that I can’t allow my thoughts to marinate on and so you reap the benefits of my torrential outpouring of uncensored musings. #sorrynotsorry

First, let’s discuss her prose because I’ve yet to find an author currently writing that can match her tone and her ability to spin words and phrases. When I picked up Cam Girl, my first Goodreads update stated, “Crazy-stupid excited to be starting this! Raeder’s prose is like fresh-out-of-the-dryer sheets you just can’t wait to slip between and wrap around you time and time again.” and that fact still remains true. Yes, her prose is self-indulgent and the loveliest shade of purple, but I’m a tad gluttonous when it comes to her because I can’t help but to inhale them. In this case, Vada was an artist at heart and being in her head, the world- her thoughts, feelings, and surroundings- were all brought to life and expressed through variations of painted hues, giving the author’s writing an ethereal, yet intense, tangible overtone. I’m such a lover of words and it always takes me longer to read her books than I normally would a novel of its same length because I obsessively reread whole sections, just to hear how the words roll off my tongue or swirl around in my head. (Seriously, I have 32 pages of text highlighted on my kindle.) But more importantly, her words invoke something in me, make me physically ache and I kind of feel a sense of codependency when books can wake up those emotions inside me.

“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.”
~quote taken from an eARC of Cam Girl at 12%

Now, let’s get to the good stuff: the romance and the characters, because they’re intricately linked in any of her books. If you’re looking for light and fluffy, please to be making a sharp right and exiting the building immediately; you won’t find that here. However, that’s one of the best parts of Leah’s writing for me. She doesn’t try to romanticize love and bathe her books in sepia tones and blurred edges, she’s all harsh lines, sharp contrasts, and the dark spaces that lurk around this intense emotion. She gives us the side so few often do, the ugly parts that no one talks about and most deny even exists. I scanned another blogger’s review of this book prior to reading (Sorry, don’t remember who said it or I would absolutely credit you, eeeep!), and I’m totally paraphrasing them: if you’re looking for an escape from the real world, Raeder’s books won’t be for you because she smacks you in the face with realism, and that is exactly it. Love is a crazy-big, scary emotion that is sometimes hard to capture and too messy to endure. For some couples, while it’s all-encompassing, it’ll never be this beautiful feeling, and not everyone is meant to understand it, or can relate to that specific kind of devotion. And that’s for hetero-couples. Raeder takes her novels even deeper than those outlines, plants us headlong, heart-first in the battle that comes with loving someone when you’re the same gender, different races, confused about your own identity, or some mixed variation of any or all of those.  Then it still goes beyond that, because they still have to not only face that war within their own relationship, but also fight all those judging people outside of that relationship that feel it’s their right to tell them how wrong/sinful/offensive their love is. So, this brings me to the characters, and there isn’t quite a lot that I can discuss about them because much of what I want to share about their personalities and their struggles is tied closely to spoilers and plot points that should be experienced by the reader and not told through some third-party. I will say that I appreciate how Raeder’s characters are authentic and diversified without it coming across as “trying to diversify books just for the sake of diversity” and more because it’s an inherent part of who they are as people. I also enjoy that her characters aren’t placed on pedestals or meant to be the swoony hero and effortlessly pretty protagonists. Though, sometimes she swaps up the conventional gender roles, so don’t get hung up on those either. Regardless, they’re flawed and imperfect; they f*ck up, not to extend the plot or for drama’s sake, but rather because it’s the humanness in them and we’re all about making tragic mistakes and repeating them as a species. There’s a true realness to her characters that is so relatable, and I always find myself hopelessly attached and sympathizing/empathizing with them, and that was very much the case with all the many people introduced in this book as well. Also, let us not forget about the chemistry. While I don’t want to make the hotter aspects the primary focus of this review, don’t get it twisted, there is alluded to and actual delicious intimacy in this book (boy/girl, boy/boy, girl/girl– lots and lots and lots of sex), and this author has zero problems setting the page and her readers on fire.

Also, I may have mentioned this one or two or ten times now, but Raeder will make you truly think, outside of her world and her characters. I’m not going to lie, I’ve undoubtedly (and maybe sometimes even unknowingly) stuck my foot in my mouth, thinking I know shit about the sex trade world or the people that work in it. I may have also, undoubtedly/unknowingly, stuck my foot in my mouth, thinking I had a clue about gender identity or people’s freedom to love who they choose, dress as they choose, see themselves as they choose, but with each book, she only proves that I know f*ckall. That I need to read more, educate myself more, and push my limits more so that I can understand people better. I’m only a small girl in a very small Southern town, and it’s amazing the things you’re taught and how one story can shatter all that you were made to learn. Dear Leah, I hope that you’ll continue to be a gateway to knowledge for myself as well as others for many years to come. Keep breaking down walls and I’ll keep following behind you.

     I was in love with my best friend. Hopelessly, completely in love.
     No more hiding. No more denying and downplaying it. Fuck what other people thought. I didn’t care how we looked, how they’d label us. I only cared what she felt. 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?
~quote taken from an eARC of Cam Girl at 83%

♥ Teaser Quote:

     “This is why we fight so much,” she said. “Because we’re fighting this.” 
     I kept trying to let go but my hands locked to her skin and she kissed me again, this time slow, intent, raising my chin and raking my hair back. Ellis kissed with that charming meticulousness that was so her, moving over every inch of my mouth and parting my lips and curling her tongue around mine softly and insistently till I tasted her everywhere, till I felt totally filled in, completely kissed, completely hers. Then her teeth sank into my bottom lip and I gasped and she titled her head, watching me come undone.
     This felt right. No matter how fucked-up things got, this always felt right. 
     Being in her hands.
~quote taken from the eARC of Cam Girl at 38%

Rec It? Absolutely. (Though, please note here that Raeder skirts just shy of “the edge”– but mostly bulldozes right past that boundary– of dark, gritty, and mature.) Leah Raeder will continue to be an auto-read/buy author for me. I kind of want to take her brain out on a date, just so I can dig a little deeper and if her brain and I end up making out at the end of the night, bonus points for me.

But on a serious note, Raeder continues to be that author that pushes boundaries in literature, and that’s something that I continue to admire and respect. She’s an author that will make you take your preconceptions about the world, flips them all on their asses, and walk away with a middle finger salute because who cares about your small-mindness, here’s the real world. So, still, I’m left craving more of her words and her capability to make me step outside myself and into another character who doesn’t shy away from the raw, honest grit that comes with falling in love, with yourself and others, without labels that define us as people– boy, girl, other, in-between, neither, both, color, sexual preference, any or all– none of that shit matters in her world except that she makes you look deeper than flesh and bone.

♥ A very special thanks to Atria and NetGalley for providing an advanced copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

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