I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Cam Girl by Leah Raeder
Published by Atria Books on November 3rd 2015
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Diiiirrrrrrttyyy
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Also by this author: Black Iris
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...
‘We fell apart. Broke each other’s hearts and screwed up our friendship. Now I’m adrift, unmoored without her. I keep treading water, looking for land. All I can see is endless blue.’
After Vada Bergen and her best friend Ellis Carraway are in a car accident, Vada slips into a depression after being injured and left with the inability to do the art which gave her life. Vada and Ellis aren’t just best friends, their relationship goes beyond that, but Vada has always struggled to accept her feelings of love towards Ellis. Even so, their bond still can’t withstand the after effects of the crash either and they drift apart. Unable to go back to school since her injury will barely allow her to hold a pencil, Vada chances upon meeting a couple that introduces her to the world of being a cam-girl; performing sexual acts on camera for anonymous strangers for money. She renames herself Morgan and becomes the companies highest earner with her signature move: a silk tie wrapped around her neck.
Morgan performs for strangers with an unwavering emotional detachment, but then one of her clients begins asking for personal one-on-one chats and then finally to meet in real-life. Ellis comes back into her life as well only jumbling her thoughts and feelings further. Vada has to make the decision to take the chance on a man she knows nothing about, or to re-attempt to accept her perplexing feelings for Ellis.
‘This world is so thick with ghosts it’s a wonder anyone can breathe.’
Leah Raeder continues to amaze me with her powerful novels that tackle those difficult subjects that are too often just easier to ignore. In Cam Girl, she tackles depression, gender-identity, same-sex relationships, and she tackles the sex trade. At first glance, you would probably say that that’s likely to be a bit overwhelming, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Raeder manages to handle these various different topics and their multiple facets with ease though. Her lyrical writing style is once again present in all its glory, transforming an ugly subject matter into something beautiful.
The focus on not just same-sex relationships but the confusion Vada felt due to her mother’s insistence she wasn’t really feeling what she knew she was feeling was a tough pill to swallow. Also, the way the sex trade was presented is definitely a hot topic for conversation. It may be because I just read Tricks and Traffick so I struggle to see the sex trade in anything but a negative light, but Vada used her role as a cam girl as a way to regain her confidence in life. It can be argued that this is healthy or not, but I appreciated having a new spin on that topic.
For those who have yet to experience one of Raeder’s books, you should know they get quite dark and extremely graphic. Her characters all possess their own unique darkness which they spill across the pages for you to experience. It doesn’t make her novels easy to read, but they are honest, full of passion, and brings to light those dormant topics that we should all be discussing.
‘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.’