By Leah Raeder
Available now from
CAM GIRL starts with a crash on an icy road. Vada is the only one who remembers what happened. Her girlfriend, in the car with her, was drunk and can't remember the accident. The other driver, a teen boy, was also drunk and died on the scene. Everyone knows Vada is lying about how the accident happened, but not exactly what her lies are.
This is one of those books that I picked up to read and then forgot about for awhile. It wasn't what I expected from the cover and description at all. There are no real thriller elements, although every once in awhile the book convinced me that something sinister would happen. It's much more of a character-driven story.
Although the crash is the final nail in Vada and Ellis's relationship, it soon becomes clear they had other problems. Between losing her drawing hand and her relationship going horribly awry, Vada's self-esteem is low. She's upset and carrying a lot of guilt. She finds her way to working as a cam girl, for a new site that promises to pay better and be less predatory, but one that carves its market niche by taking things farther to the edge. Vada is consenting to be exploited, but she's still be exploited.
At times, CAM GIRL felt like it was edgy just to be edgy. Vada's specialty is breathplay, or auto-erotic asphyxiation. The book eventually manages to ground it in Vada's character and past, but at first it seems like Vada is practicing hardcore BDSM with no buildup. Surely it happens, but it was rather jarring.
Vada's life as a cam girl gets shaken up by several events: she starts falling for a big spender client, Ellis re-enters her life, and she finds out the driver of the other car might have been committing suicide. Her complicated romantic life and search for answers about Ryan tangle together. I felt everything was a bit too obvious and got frustrated with Vada quite a bit for not realizing what was right in front of her face.
Leah Raeder's CAM GIRL tackles many issues of gender and sexuality that society is really just beginning to discuss. She's drawn a convincing portrait of a flawed character surrounded by equally flawed people. (Including Brandt, Ellis's cousin who feels like he wandered in from the thriller I expected.) It was a book I ultimately failed to connect to, but I expect its messages will connect to many other readers.