This book follows Remy Cameron, an adopted, openly gay, black teen who is trying to figure out his place in the world and who he wants to be on his own terms. Remy is very well-liked by almost everyone but is facing the issue of not really knowing who he is. When he’s assigned an essay at school, Remy embarks on a journey of foregoing the labels attached to him by others and finding the ones he feels most comfortable with…even if that means fitting none at all.
Let’s be honest for a moment: the synopsis did not blow me away the first time I read it. Young adult novels have come a long way but this was and remains at the core of this genre: young teens trying to figure themselves out – so yeah, it’s not a new concept. We’ve had Charlie figuring out his identity in Perks of Being a Wallflower and have followed Simon Spier finding the courage to be himself out and proud in Simon vs. the Homo-Sapiens Agenda. True, each story brings their own personal twist to this coming-of-age story; whether it’d be a hidden trauma or hiding in the closet, each story helps us grow and feel less alone. How to Be Remy Cameron isn’t any different in this regard; indeed, many will probably love it for its genuinely sweet protagonist and the struggles of finding your place when everyone else already seems to know it before you do.
This read much like Winters‘ debut novel Running With Lions and surprisingly, I found myself faced with the same issues I had reading his first novel. There is nothing really wrong about the story, but it feels uncannily like the early beginnings of young adult literature – too much exposition, awkward teen speak that sounds a bit like The CW writers attempting to sound ‘young and hip’. It seems as though it might be trying a bit too hard to be relatable and perhaps worst of all, characters so set out to be unique that they end up feeling unremarkable in their quirky behaviour and colourful outfits. Another part I wasn’t a fan of was the constant repetition and the over-the-top description. In the beginning of the story, there is a heap of infodumping; whenever a new character enters the story or some object is described we get at least two paragraphs explaining why we are reading about this certain person or object at the moment. The actual story at hand is completely forgotten by the time you get through that exposition. And that’s fine at the outset of the story but it keeps happening throughout the book, even after all the facts have been well established.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed How To Be Remy Cameron just like I enjoyed Running with Lions – but I couldn’t tell you anything that really stuck with me beyond the pages. It was a conventional story, nice but nothing to write home about.
Putting all of this aside, I feel like this was definitely a me issue. Despite the awkward writing style, I think a lot of young teens could benefit from reading this book, especially if you’ve ever asked yourself where you fit in the world, or if you don’t really know what labels are or why you should feel like they say anything definitive about you. I also liked the hints at intersectionality in this story and how labels can be something empowering if you claim then in your own way.
If you’re searching for an introspective journey of how to fit in this world if the labels you choose for yourself aren’t the ones chosen for you, this might be for you!
Will you be picking up How To Be Remy Cameron? Tell us in the comments below!
Synopsis | Goodreads
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.