How to Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Everyone on campus knows Remy Cameron. He’s the out-and-gay, super-likable guy that people admire for his confidence. The only person who may not know Remy that well is Remy himself. So when he is assigned to write an essay describing himself, he goes on a journey to reconcile the labels that people have attached to him, and get to know the real Remy Cameron.
Warnings (as mentioned in book): discussions of racism, homophobia, past minor characters’ death, and alcoholism, as well as depictions of homophobic bullying, and a scene involving brief sexual harassment/racial fetishism.
This coming of age story is all about the labels that define us, and the labels we choose to define ourselves. When Remy is given an essay topic in his Lit class to write about who he is, he feels lost as to how to answer such a question. All his life, he has been defined by things he feels don’t really explain the complexity of him – gay, adopted, Black – and with a deadline on figuring these things out, he finds it difficult to resolve these identities into the core of him. It is about him figuring out love, after having his heart broken. It is about him figuring out his place in his family, even though he has always been loved and supported. It is about him questioning his birth family, but not necessarily wanting to find them. It is about the complexities a person can have, and how it is a journey to find all the things that make you you, and that there is no hurry to know everything about yourself in your teens, no matter how many college essays expect you to have an answer to that ready.
Life is a journey, Rembrandt. You don’t know all of it at seventeen. Or as an adult. In fact, I think when you finally do know all of who you are, the universe stops the clock and ends the journey.
The beautiful thing about this book is that it doesn’t take one epiphany or one person for Remy to Realize Things. It happens throughout the book, in small interactions with his friends and with his family; it happens in moments of self-reflection and in moments of external reaffirmation. And I must say, this book has a delightful set of diverse characters that forms Remy’s support system of family and friends. They talk to him about everything from racial discrimination, to parental issues, to choosing your identities, and many more. There is a romance subplot that is sweet; a boy named Ian is still in the closest and Remy is crushing on him, but their story doesn’t have the coming out tension or anything, and is a wholesome development of feelings. There is a minor subplot about a graffiti artist which I didn’t see much to do with the plot; another thing I found unnecessary was the abuser-is-a-secret-ally plotline.
Overall, it is a beautiful book, with self-realization depicted as a journey and actually manifested like that in the story.
Is it diverse? Main character is gay and Black (OwnVoices rep); has secondary queer and PoC characters
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Duet Books, via Edelweiss.
Released on September 10, 2019