Cam Girl by Leah Raeder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Elliot Wake's first three books each use some kind of art form as a recurring motif - film in Unteachable, creative writing in Black Iris, and now, in Cam Girl, the sort of art you would find in museums. This leads to what has to be one of the most striking opening sentences I've seen: "A car crash is a work of art." And from there, our new narrator, Vada, launches into a more detailed description using so many famed art movements of the last century as part of this extended metaphor.
Once again, the oddly addictive prose is what makes this book truly readable - although, like with its predecessors in the same universe (this one does contain a few references to Blythe and Armin from Black Iris, among others), the mystery angle certainly helps. And then there's the inevitable long scenes of Vada actually being a cam girl. Disturbing and transgressive, to be sure, to the point where I'm sure no big studio would even touch a film adaptation of this book. But Wake takes pains to show us that, for Vada at least, it's not as demeaning or un-feminist as you might think. Not only are those in charge of the camming business running a pretty tight ship, modding the cam sessions to keep out anyone who's getting too pervy and encouraging the cam girls and boys to take steps to preserve their anonymity, but for Vada, it's pretty easy money. Given the real pain she's had to endure before, this showcases a different (though no less valid) kind of toughness.
And then there's the ways in this book takes the "quantum" sexuality theme from Black Iris and turns it up to eleven by turning gender quantum as well, presenting us with the highly androgynous Ellis. I think she's the single most fascinating character Wake's put to paper to date (although I'm sure that'll change when Bad Boy comes out.)
And of course, it wouldn't be Wake without "I understood that reference" moments abounding. If there was ever a time and place to make me feel like less of a man for not letting my geek flag fly high enough to own Superman underwear... (Well, I'd be more likely to get Batman underwear. Or Spider-Man. Or The Flash, 'cause he's my spirit animal.)
So, with that, I'm now fully prepared for the visceral high promise of Bad Boy. In the words of my spirit animal, the speedster in the oxblood supersuit...
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