Book Review: CAM GIRL by Elliot Finley Wake (w/a Leah Reader)

Photo credit: Goodreads
So while anything Elliot Wake (Raeder) writes is pretty much on my insta-buy list (and has been since both Unteachable and Black Iris blew me away), when I heard Cam Girl features a nonbinary major character, needless to say I knew I had to buy it ASAP.

So I did. And I'm so glad I did because this book felt really important to me. 

Before I go on, here's the Goodreads summary, as per usual: 

"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 brings back a ghost from her past. Now Vada must confront the devastating secrets she's been running from—those of others, and those she's been keeping from herself..."

There are three things you can pretty much expect whenever you pick up one of Raeder's books:
  1. Incredibly gorgeous writing.
  2. Very sexy scenes throughout. 
Cam Girl indisputably delivered on all three points. 

While I found some of the pre-Blue cam girling stuff a bit much for me at the beginning (not a flaw of the book, just a personal taste thing), I'm so glad I kept reading because the story and characters more than made up for it. 

Vada, an artist, deals with chronic pain specifically in her hand and arm from the accident at the beginning of the book. I've read a few books now with characters who struggle with chronic pain, but this depiction resonated the most with me—and the further connection of not being able to do art because of the pain, something I deal with IRL, is something that echoed unexpectedly deeply with me. 

Then there's Vada's relationship with her best friend, Ellis, which I absolutely loved reading. Vada and Ellis have a blurry best friends/more than best friends relationship, but though Vada has accepted that she's bisexual, the thought of having a serious long-term relationship with a girl freaks her out, which is an experience with bisexuality that I haven't seen deeply explored in a book before. It worked really well here in terms of tension and adding a complicated dynamic to Vada and Ellis's relationship, and it felt like a real experience that was important to tackle. 

All of these character elements and more weave incredibly well into the plot, which is messy and complicated and finished off with an ending I totally didn't see coming. I loved the frank discussions about gender and sexuality, and seeing a major nonbinary character figure themselves out and explore their identity is something I really appreciated. 

I loved reading this, will probably re-read in the future, and now I'm even more excited for Raeder's next book, Bad Boy, which features a trans guy major character. If you haven't picked up Raeder's books before and you like (very) steamy, complicated, and dark New Adult books, I honestly can't recommend his writing more.

Diversity note: Vada, the protagonist, is Latina, bisexual, and deals with chronic pain, and another major character is nonbinary (genderfluid). The author is openly bisexual and nonbinary, so it's #ownvoices, too.

Twitter-sized bites:
.@Ava_Jae gives 5 stars to CAM GIRL by Elliot Wake (w/a Leah Raeder). Is this twisty, diverse NA on your TBR? (Click to tweet)

Looking for a NA w/ major nonbinary, disabled, & bi characters? Check out CAM GIRL by Elliot Wake (w/a Leah Raeder). (Click to tweet)

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