I just want to send a huge thank you to Atria for this amazing ARC and also to the Goodreads Giveaway program for sending out this beauty. I am so glad I got the chance to read this book, and cannot tell you what a ride it took me on.
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 will bring back a ghost from her past.
Now Vada must confront what she’s been running from. A past full of devastating secrets—those of others and those she’s been keeping from herself…
I'm really trying to find a good way to start this review, but I'm having a hard time to be honest.
This book kinda put me through the ringer for a few reasons and I just don't know where to start with everything.
I guess I should start with the fact that this book was nothing like I was expecting. I mean I had sort of an idea in my head what I was getting myself into, but I sure hadn't been ready for what I got.
This book has so much tragedy in it. From Vada's lose of her ability to make art, to the fatal car crash that still haunts not only her but a lost father, to the role Ellis plays in it all. Leah wrote this beautifully broken story that seriously just left me spinning. But n all of the sad we are given this story that has this amazing artistic quality to it. The way that Vada sees things, especially things from her past get described in ways that make you see them from new angles. They aren't just words on a page, but almost a piece of art themselves. If a painting was made of words this book would incompass that notion.
You can almost see the brush strokes as you get deeper in. How one line connecting to another forms this bigger picture till you have the whole thing in front of you. You know how they say you can see the mood the painter was in when they made their work of art? How artists styles, strokes, or patterns reflect what they make? Well this book had a way of doing that as well.
I've always considered books and writing in general to be a form of art. It takes real talent and hard work to write a novel the same it would to paint a picture or sketch something. Even along the same lines as creating a musical masterpiece. And yet this book just stood out to me the way it was written. It made me feel, and I don't mean all those gooey oh look it's a romance book, aww this is so sweet kinda things. This book made me feel lose, and sadness, and hurt, and happiness, and betrayal, and acceptance. It's not everyday a book can elicit all those things either. It takes a very special way of writing to do that. Something that Leah Raeder did flawlessly in my opinion.
Also this book took me out of my comfort zone in a way. If you have ever talked to me you know that I am a pretty accepting person. I don't hold race, sexuallity, preference, ethnicity, or any of that stuff over someone. If you are the kind of person I want to be in my life, I could care less about all the other stuff. I care about the person you are and your actions. But I will admit that I have had a hard time branching out of the atypical romance books in my reading preferences. I have yet to read a M/M book although I do have Jay Crownover's new one on my radar. I love her books and do want to see how things will play out bridging the Marked Men series with her new Saints Of Denver one. But I will admit I'm sort of learly, and I had a bit of that reading this book too. I was not uncomfortable. Let me make that clear. The relationship between Vada and Ellis is sort of beautifully damaged and in a way and I found myself more interested in what happened to them than I do most characters. But at the same time this book brought up situations that I have no experience with and I will admit sort of took me out of my normal reading zone.
Also that type of beautifully destructive nature of their relationship I kind of mentioned earlier made things different. I have never read characters that were so codependent on each other before. Vada and Ellis almost need each other to live, to breath, and that's not normally something I see in my go to books. But while they have that they also have this need to punish and hurt each other. Like they need it to feel anything. Which brings me to the other part of this book that sort of threw me from my safe bubble. The type of Camming that Vada does. I like kinky smutty romance as much as the next person, but lets face it, 50 Shades doesn't hold a candle to some of the real stuff that people in that world deal with, or why they decide on that lifestyle. And yet in this one we see the WHY. We see what it does to someone to experience it, and what makes them see that as an escape. I've never been one to really be into that kind of thing in books, but after reading this one, I really understand why some people need that sort of thing. It is an extremely intimate and emotional thing. And I love how Leah was able to show that through her writing. How she was able to write such vivid emotions on paper.
I also want to take a little time to talk characters in this too.
And I think I'll start with Ellis.
I'm going to be brutally honest here. I DON'T like her. To me she is manipulative, and sort of clingy, and other things I can't much put in words (I hate when I can't find my words to describe things. I draw these huge blanks sometimes, and it drives me nuts)
I don't like what she does to Vada in this book, and personally I think she is pretty selfish. But with all that said, I think she also brings out the good in Vada in ways. She makes Vada face her fears and even bigger, see herself for who she really is. She brings out the emotions Vada tries so hard to push away and makes her admit things, especially to herself she has been to afraid to consider. Ellis balances Vada out, and so I like that aspect of her character. I know that for the most part we see how much Vada has been broken and why, but the thing that I think gets kind of overlooked at first glance is how broken Ellis actually is too. I do sympathize for her character, but at the same time I want to drop her out on one of those abandoned islands and leave her. What she does to Vada to "Help" her makes me so mad on Vada's behalf and I really sort of hated how Vada was just able to forgive and accept what she did (Does that make me a bad person?)
But I am one of those people that when I read a book, I build this emotional connection to it. And that makes me feel things more deeply I guess? I find ways to relate my own life to the books I read and so when that happened in this one, I just sat there in disbelief that Ellis would do something like she did to someone she claimed she loved. Believe me, I know I have hurt people in my past, and I'm not proud of those choices I made, but I think those things also are what make me judgmental. (Yup I am a judgmental jerk sometimes, I try not to be though... Sometimes)
Even with my dislike for Ellis I do see why her character is so important to the story, and I have to say that the issues Leah gives her to deal with can help people in real life. I don't want to give anything away from the book, but she deals with some pretty significant things and I think the way Leah writes it if someone going through the same thing reads this, it could help them. This book is written so real that it becomes in a way hope (I think that's the word I want) This book gives you a real situation that real people deal with and shows how hard it is to experience it, but also that their are people who will accept you for who you are no matter what.So while I don't like her, Ellis represents hope for being accepted for who you are. (Yup, it was the right word)
So I guess I should talk about Vada now.
I know this is going to sound negative. Again. But I really didn't care for her much either. In the beginning. But as the story progressed I found myself liking her more and more. She is one of those characters that is almost self destructive (I've used that word a lot today)
She purposely does things so she can just feel, or I guess not feel in some instances. She wants to be numb to the pain but be able to still feel something, and the way to do that is to cause pain. (Have I confused you yet?)
Vada is broken but on her way to being fixed. She deals with her bouts of depression after the accident, and through some very unconventional means finds herself again. Camming gives her the means to feel, to deal with the pain in her own way. But to also not form any lasting connections with people. It gives her a veil of sorts between herself and any real emotions.
And the thing that makes me feel so sad for Vada are the facts that the people closest to her that care about her the most are the ones always hurting her. Ellis, her mom, some other people she meets along the way. They are all the ones to make her feel so lost and yet they are the ones that also keep her grounded when it comes down to it.
It sounds twisted I'm sure, but I found it sort of refreshing to see a character to not have it all together and really let her demons win out sometimes. In the end it all works out for the best, but she deals with so much hurt, and physical pain, and her life being altered dramatically. and to see her deal with it all, in her way was sort of eye opening. I like the characters that compel me, and Vada compelled me.
I also want to mention Brent, Frankie, and Dane. We don't get just a whole lot with these three but when we do, it makes things quite interesting. I'm definitely one of those people who is drawn to the supporting characters almost more than the lead ones most of the time, and these three intrigued me. I want to see their own stories. To know what happened to them to make them the way they are.
They all have a different story to tell. All sort of broken in their own way. And the thing that I liked with their addition to the book is that this notion that all these broken people can come together to form this sort of whole group. When they take all the jagged pieces they make something whole that can survive. But they need each other to do it.
So I guess I'm at the end of this one. I've said more in this review than I have in probably any review recently, and I just feel so emotionally weird after reading this book. It just hit me in a strange way, and I really appreciate a book that can do that. I read so many things and so close together that I get burnt out pretty fast sometimes. And then I read something like this, that I can move on from fairly easily but yet still sticks with me. Leah writes this book amazingly and I really hope I can convince at least one person to go out and pick up a copy of it.
Also I really just want to say thank you... For anyone out there dealing with being yourself, or the choices you're making... Leah Raeder you wrote an amazing story and I think it is one that may truly help anyone going through similar situations. You write about real life situations, the ones that some are to afraid to even mention, and you did it in a way to help, heal, and bring light to them. Thank you so much for writing a book like this. I absolutely loved it.
This book does deal with situations such as depression, suicidal thoughts, sexuality, transgenderism, and acceptance of any and all of these. I only say this because I think you should know exactly what you're getting yourself into. Some of these situations can be hard for some people to read about because of various reasons, and I don't want anyone to jump into this book not knowing. But I do think that the way it is written will allow you to see the dark side of them, without being overwhelming or too much. I think it is actually very eye opening and needed.
I give Cam Girl: ****4.5 Stars****