Cam Girl by Leah Raeder
Published by Atria
Published on November 3, 2015
Genres: Dark Romance, Romantic Suspense, Diverse, Fiction, Friendship, LGBTQ, New Adult
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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...
Cam Girl is officially on my Best of 2015 list. This book is so many things. Every reader will glean something different, pick up on nuances particular to their life and experiences, much like looking at a painting by Jackson Pollock or Frida Kahlo. Heck, even a Rorschach inkblot test. Our lives have all been sculpted from different materials using an array of tools. Cam Girl is a story that consumes. It digs in and expands, makes itself at home. It is suspenseful, mysterious, heart-wrenching, and eye-opening.
Leah Raeder is known for her lyrical, descriptive writing. She maintains her style, stays true to her voice, but now her voice is wiser. This novel shows growth and maturity on countless levels. The lyrical nature of contemplative or descriptive moments typically found in Raeder’s books have, in the past, turned some people off. This has not been an issue for me but I can see how other readers could feel that way. Cam Girl has Raeder finding a lyrical sweet spot, so to speak. The prose feels organic to the scenes. This is primarily attributed to Vada and her artistic nature. Vada thinks and sees and talks like an artist, the type of artist whose passion is tethered deep within. Her cadence doesn’t feel forced and therefore creates some incredibly beautiful settings and descriptions.
Another thing Raeder is known for is not shying away from social taboos but rather shining spotlights on them. Cam Girl has suspense, mystery, raw emotion. One main character fights the deep, romantic love she has for her best girl friend and the other main character fights gender roles, limitations, and expectations. This story could have easily been a sledgehammer-to-a-watermelon, in-your-face, eyes-pried-open dialogue about gender. But it’s not. It is a brilliantly written novel that has the potential to not only open eyes but maybe even create some sparks of change. This isn’t about forcing opinions, this is about accepting people for who they are and who they are not. “The point of art, of any communion between human beings, wasn’t to make people feel good—it was to make them feel less alone.” Somewhere, a reader is going to feel less alone. And maybe someone will help another person feel less alone as well.
There is a dark vulnerability in this story, in these characters, that has the potential to create sparks of thought and action, not just regarding gender or sexual orientation, but how we see and treat others. It’s about readjusting our eyes to see the painting not only as a whole but as the sum of its parts; the close up of a Van Gogh’s dabs and dashes, as Raeder discusses, versus stepping back and seeing a clear image. Life is tough and ugly but also beautiful and fulfilling. It all adds up to who we are inside and out. “…showing the suffering was important because somewhere in that crowd tonight, someone else suffered, too.”
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