So, in proper college nerd fashion, I've stayed up really late into the night finishing the amazing book Cam Girl by trans writer Elliot Wake (formerly Leah Raeder; that's the name on the cover too), about Vada, an art grad student turned cam girl trying to figure out her complicated relationship with her best friend/friend with benefits Ellis; struggling with a permanently damaged arm; and discovering the allures of camming and meeting a client named Blue, with whom Vada forms quite a close attachment.
There have been few books that I've read that I've considered life-changing after I've read them. This book is one of them! It's amazing! The last third in particular, but the whole thing is just so vivid in its imagery, characters, and especially in its themes that it just sends my heart to pounding and brings a smile to my face! There's a rawness to this, a realism that leaps from the page; it feels genuine because it is genuine, the author nailing all sorts of themes related to sexuality, identity, and so forth, and presenting them and the protagonists' views on them in a respectful way while remaining true to who these people are.
The writing is very visual and razor sharp in its language. It's also very steamy, not censoring itself at all, but all the sex and erotic elements are there to serve a thematic or character-specific purpose and do not exist for their own sake (most of the time), which is a very good thing; it could have easily run away with itself, but there's a remarkable amount of intelligence surrounding all the camming sessions and sex episodes, grounding everything in emotion. The characters are wild in their actions and fierce in their beliefs, and these types of scenes serve to illustrate or bolster that.
The thematic overtones are of bisexuality, being transgender, female agency in a male-dominated world, grief and personal loss, physical disability, and coming to grips with internalized misogyny and gender/sex-phobias. All of these are tackled and explored really well, certainly more than I thought would be possible in a tight book already teeming with a mystery plot and a perhaps unhealthy romance at its core; these could have easily been dropped in as lip-service, but having the main characters discuss them in relation to themselves as people is stirring to read and made me want to stand up and applaud Mr. Wake for his capturing of the untamed and raw nature of how we as people come to grips with these ideas in radically different ways.
If you have the chance to read this, do so. It is a masterwork, a laser-focussed study in emotion, character, and theme. It has amazing prose, a sharp, unapologetic, and fierce moral center, and a relationship that pulls you in and surrounds you entirely. If you want to feel like you're witnessing a beautiful tapestry being woven with words, read this book! Elliot Wake is a master of his craft, wringing emotion out of his readers and feeding them rich morsels of queer/feminist theory through stirring prose and vivid characters. As the first book I've read by him, I'll say this: Wake is one to keep an eye on. Cam Girl is one of my favorite books of all time, a tale that refreshed my interest in romance and reminded me of the potential thematic and character paths one can take with the genre.