Cam Girl by Leah Raeder
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
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…
Full disclosure: I’ve been drinking.
Okay, so here’s the thing. Elliot Finley Wake (was Leah Raeder) is a really good friend of mine, but it should be noted that this fact in no way influenced my opinion of this book.
Oh, and it should ALSO be noted that I’m reviewing the version that I beta-read, not the finalized copy. There’s a reason for that, which I’ll get to a little later in this wine-fueled word vomit.
If I don’t, someone please comment and remind me to do so when I sober up.
Thanks in advance.
WARNING: I’M PROBABLY GOING TO OFFEND A FEW PEOPLE HERE.
I’m sorry for that. Truly, I am. It’s not my intention, but I recognize the fact that what I’m about to say might come across as slightly…combative? Judgmental even? Oh, Christ, I hope this doesn’t come across as patronizing. I swear I have good intentions here.
If it comes across as patronizing, someone please comment and remind me to make it less so when I sober up.
Again, thanks in advance.
In my review for Black Iris, I said:
“This book is dark, guttural. It speaks to that side of yourself you keep hidden from the rest of the world. That reptilian part of your brain that never evolved past fuck, kill, conquer.”
I thought that this was enough. That this would warn readers that Black Iris was not a “nice” book. That when I said it was a book of Darkness, I meant it with a capital D.
Judging by some of the shocked reactions I saw to that book, I didn’t do a good enough of a job of warning people. So, let me be clear; Elliot’s books don’t hold the kind of “darkness” that can be cured by the feel of rock-hard abs beneath your fingers or an equally stiff dick driving into you. Nor is it the kind of darkness that can be cured by a beautiful set of tits or a woman who makes you mad with lust.
No, this is the darkness we don’t talk about. The darkness that dwells at the periphery of your synapses.
I think a reader’s understanding and sympathizing with Raeder’s characters is far too often dependent upon their ability to admit certain things about themselves. Those things being how unevolved they still are.
Elliot has a way of peeling back the ego and superego to expose our IDs for what they are. She has a way of forcing us to look at the lesser evolved parts of ourselves that might leave some readers feeling overexposed and uncomfortable.
We get an unfiltered, unapologetic look into her character’s minds, and how close their thoughts strike to home can be not only terrifying for some people, but also inadmissible.
This book is no different than Black Iris in that way. So be warned, fellow reader, this book is not for the faint of heart. This book is not light, or fluffy. This book will not distract you from the dark reality of the world we live it, but will remind you of it. This book is not a place you can escape to.
But it is a place that will make you think.
Point in case, there were definitely moments where I struggled with the subject matter here. Before reading this, I was one of those feminists who was staunchly anti-sex trade in all forms, and that included camgirls.
I think a lot of other readers might have as strong of a reaction as I did, because the sex trade is such a polarizing issue. I realize now that what Raeder depicts here is supposed to be awkward and uncomfortable at first, and that makes total sense.
Even as someone who considered herself “against it”, I thought Elliot did a marvelous job portraying how camming can be about more than objectification. How it can be about someone owning their sexuality, whatever it might be, and choosing how they want to be treated, by whom, and when. It was less about the client’s desires and more about Vada’s (the main character).
In short, this book forced me to rethink my stance on this issue, which says a lot, because I am one opinionated woman, if you hadn’t already figured that out.
Um…so, what else did I need to say? Oh, yeah! I’m reviewing the beta book I read. Because this struck so close to home for me that I haven’t been in the right mindset to read the finalized version.
So here are my questions to you, fellow reader:
Have you hit rock bottom? Or have you been there for someone who has? Do you possess one of those rare, empathetic souls that leans towards understanding instead of judging? Can you comprehend the desperation that comes with utter hopelessness?
If so, I think you will not only understand this main character, but also sympathize with her in a way that make you ugly-cry. Like I did. Several times.
I will never forgive you for that, Elliot.
If not, you may struggle with this book. And that’s perfectly okay. But, in my humble opinion, this is one of those rare books that needs to be read no matter which side of those questions you land on.
Because what are beliefs?
“A state of mind in which a person thinks something to be the case, with or without there being empirical evidence to prove that something is the case with factual certainty. In other words, belief is when someone thinks something is reality, true, when they have no absolute verified foundation for their certainty of the truth or realness of something.”
In short, we should be ever questioning our “reality”. AndCam Girl is one of those rare books that might force you to do just that.
PLUS, THERE’S AN HEA THAT WILL MAKE YOU HAPPY-CRY. REJOICE!