Sunday, December 22, 2019

Book Review: "How to Be Remy Cameron" by Julian Winters

Why didn’t books like How to Be Remy Cameron exist when I was a teenager?

“We have no control over what labels others give us, but we can define who we are by the ones we choose to give ourselves.”

Remy Cameron is a pretty likable guy. He’s a good son (even when his parents get embarrassing), he loves being a big brother, he’s a great friend, and most people admire his courage for coming out at 14.

Remy is a lot of things—he’s a teenager, he’s adopted (he’s African American while his adoptive parents are white), he’s gay and the president of his school's gay-straight alliance—but isn’t he more than just a bunch of characteristics? Yet when he gets an assignment from a teacher he believes is a crucial part of getting into his dream college next year, it throws him for a loop: he has to write about who he is and who he wants to be.

Why is answering that question so hard? Why can’t he see himself as more than the visible things others see him as? His inability to answer the question of who he is starts to affect everything—his schoolwork, his friendships, and could threaten his future. And when he becomes infatuated with a returning classmate struggling with his own identity, and meets someone who might know how he’s feeling, he doesn’t know how to process everything.

I really enjoyed this heartfelt, poignant, thought-provoking book. It’s so difficult to figure out who you are, particularly in high school, and Remy’s struggles both felt familiar and unique.

I’ve said many times before I wish that books like this existed when I was younger because it would have given me hope when I needed it most, hope that I would’ve found acceptance and happiness being true to myself. But I’m so glad these books exist today, because while life isn’t quite perfect, it’s certainly a more accepting world in many places, and you can more often live the life you want.

It's ironic that Becky Albertalli, author of Simon and the Homo Sapiens Agenda, blurbed this book, because How to Be Remy Cameron reminded me a little of that one, although I felt it had a little more emotional heft. But both are such great books for today's youth to read.

Julian Winters did a really great job creating characters I cared about who were more than typical high school stereotypes—in fact, he turned many of those on their head. This really was so sweet and it made me smile.

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