“Darkly erotic…a must read” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
From the USA TODAY bestselling author of Unteachable and Black Iris comes a new, sexy romantic suspense novel about two best friends who are torn apart by a life-shattering accident…and the secrets left behind.
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 will bring back a ghost from her past.
Now Vada must confront what she’s been running from. A past full of devastating secrets—those of others and those she’s been keeping from herself…
|Product dimensions:||8.20(w) x 5.30(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Leah Raeder is the author of Unteachable, Black Iris, and the forthcoming Cam Girl. Aside from reading her brains out, she enjoys graphic design, video games, fine whiskey, and the art of self-deprecation. She lives with her very own manic pixie dream boy in Chicago. Visit her at LeahRaeder.com.
Read an Excerpt
Cam Girl —1—
A car crash is a work of art.
At first it’s Cubism: the hood folding, doors crumpling, windshield splitting into a mosaic of shattered light, the whole world breaking into shards of color and noise and tumbling around you like a kaleidoscope. Screeching tires and cold air and gasoline and your own scream are all just bits of debris flying around, gorgeous chaos. When the tires stop spinning and the engines die, you’re left sitting in a smashed puzzle of metal and glass, trying to figure out which way the pieces go now, why some are stuck together and won’t come apart. Why there is an eye next to a foot, steel where there should be skin.
I listened to a soft dripping and the sigh of steam. By then it had become Surrealism. My hands were puppet hands, one arm bent at a bizarre angle. A deflated airbag lay in my lap like a bloody surgery sheet. The seat belt (I buckled up, I didn’t really want to die) was some kind of medieval bondage device and I clawed at it senselessly before clicking the release button. Then I saw her.
Ellis slumped in her seat, limp against the seat belt. Red-gold hair hung in her eyes. She was utterly still.
I kicked my door open. Staggered through the electric prongs of the headlights to her side of the car. My right arm was heavy, pulling toward the ground, so I used the left to haul her out. Impressionism now: the dashboard glow dappling her pale skin cyan, black ice reflecting swirls of white starlight. My breath spiraling wildly into the sky. I cried her name as I pulled her onto the road, her legs dragging.
“Wake up, Elle. Please, please, wake up.”
You idiot, I thought. You know CPR.
I brushed her hair off her forehead, leaned close. No warmth on my ear. My right arm had begun to tingle and buzz and it was going to make this difficult. I took a deep breath, but before my mouth met hers she coughed and her eyelids fluttered open. Details became acutely clear, almost Pointillist: stars glittering in her eyes, ruby droplets freckling her skin. I touched her face, smearing the blood.
“Vada?” she said weakly.
“Can you move?” I couldn’t take my hand off her cheek. “Move your arms. Ellis, move your arms. Okay. Now your legs.”
I grabbed her in an awkward one-armed hug but hugging wasn’t enough so I kissed her cheek, her mouth, cupped her face and stared down into it. “Are you okay? There’s so much blood.” I wiped her face again but it only got worse. “Where’s it coming from? Are you hurt?”
We both noticed my right arm at the same time. The sleeve of my hoodie ripped to tatters. The sliver of white showing through red near the elbow.
“Oh my god,” Elle whispered, her breath musky and sweet. Tequila.
I let go of her.
The other car.
His headlights made an X through ours, a crucifix of light across the blank black night. We were on a highway bridge between nowhere and eternity, the ocean glinting beyond the treetops. The other driver lay sprawled facedown on the ground. My eyes traced the path he’d taken through his windshield, the bloody stripe running over the hood of his Jeep.
“Vada,” Ellis said.
I dropped to my knees at the man’s side, feeling for breath, pulse. My right arm was completely numb now. When I lifted his head, a warm red gush flooded my palm.
“Call 911.” My voice was calm.
Elle fumbled in her coat pocket and then at the screen and almost dropped her phone. As I watched I thought, She’s drunk. God, she is so drunk.
I took her phone and painted by numbers with the stranger’s blood.
“I need an ambulance.” I described the river nearby, the bridge.
Elle sank to the ground beside me, those lucid green eyes locked on the body. Her glasses were gone. She couldn’t see how bad it really was.
On the asphalt, pieces of skull lay scattered like pottery fragments.
Can you tell me what happened?
“Car accident. This guy wasn’t wearing a seat belt and he’s . . . on the road.”
How many people are hurt?
“Three. We’re okay but this guy is—we need an ambulance.”
It’s on the way, miss. Is the man breathing?
“I don’t think it really matters anymore because I can see his brain.”
My voice remained calm but Ellis clapped a hand over her mouth.
The dispatcher asked another question. Elle stared at me, horrified, over splayed fingers.
In a few hours, she wouldn’t remember any of this. The concussion and the alcohol would blot it out.
But not me. I’d never forget.
“Vada,” I said. “My name is Vada. I’m the driver.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Sweet story. Not really my cup of tea though. The blurb i feel was a little deceiving.
The overview if this story was misleading. I thought this story was going to be about a young girl that turns to camming when she has nothing left. Instead it seemed to be a story about a young, Hispanic woman who has a difficult time accepting her bisexuality and her love for another woman. Not at all what I was expecting and didn't like the twist.
Chilling and wonderful.
I finished CAM GIRL almost a week ago, and I've been struggling with my review for almost that long. There's so much to be said about this story--from its in-depth look at gender diversity and disability, to its commentary on why people prioritize art and how our desire to create shapes our existences. I could talk about the friendship between Vada and Ellis, and how beautifully drawn it was even when the way they treated each other was ugly. I could talk about how the weight of their history was a blessing and a curse to them both, or how every character on the page--Max, Frankie, Brandt--was either running from or trying to reshape their own history. I could describe the painfully graphic nature of the camming scenes, and what those scenes say about the way we as a society treat women, or people we perceive to be women. I could gush about the singular beauty of Raeder's writing, or perhaps warn you that her prose will make you want to jump in the car and drive immediately to Maine. Or, you could pick up the book and see for yourself why I haven't stopped thinking about it for almost a week.
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. 3. TWISTS LIKE WHOA. 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.
This book is not perfect, I think the story would have been fine with less twists and I didn't really liked the main romance of the book because it was not really healthy, but overall it's a great book. It's original and it's nothing like I have ever read, once I started reading it I couldn't put it down, before 'Cam Girl' I had never found a book with a f/f relationship and female characters who loved girls that I could truly identify with, I don't know why, but none of them ever made me feel like if they were about me, 'Cam Girl' did. I'm forever gonna be grateful to Leah for this, and I'm also gonna be grateful to this book for making me finally open my eyes about how gender doesn't actually really matter. I don't want to talk too much about it because I don't want to spoiler but there are certain arguments that I had never managed to wrap my mind around until reading this book, so yeah I think it's an important read. As a young person part of the lgbt community I found this book very helpful, so I would most definitely recomend it to others like me but I feel like it would be important for everyone to read it.
Unlocks the front door walks inside and kicks a table knocking pver a vase and breaking it
This book was not what I thought it would be. Geared toward trans gender reads
I don't even know where to begin with this review. Leah Raeder is one of those authors you can trust. You know when you pick up one of her books it's going to brutal, honest, raw, and beautiful. You know the author's done her research, treats everything and everyone she writes about with respect. When I open a book, I want to read about someone who isn't like me. I want to read about a girl who struggles, who's unapologetic, brutal, sometimes acts without thinking, who makes mistakes and runs from them. Cam Girl is about a girl named Vada whose life changes after a car accident. She's lost her best friend, Ellis, she can no longer use her right hand without feeling pain. She feels as if she's lost art. Part of herself. She begins to work as a cam girl to earn money. Vada holds a secret deep within her she doesn't want anyone to know. She's not happy when Ellis returns to her life, but they reconnect and Vada learns that sometimes you don't know everything about a person. Even if it's someone closest to you. So many beautiful quotes weave through this novel. It entrances you from the first word and doesn't release you until the last page. I know from personal experience. I picked the book up last night (big mistake) and was restless until I grabbed it this morning. Devoured it in two days. I gave this beautiful, thought provoking novel five stars because I know it'll change people's lives. Or maybe someone will pick it up and see themselves in a novel for the first time. I'll definitely read this one again. Multiple times.
Poetry at it's finest Wow. Just wow. Leah Raeder's third release Cam Girl is powerful and hauntingly beautiful. "Love is love." When I read this book, I didn't really know what to expect. As I read Cam Girl, that message reverberated in my mind. I knew Leah Raeders books are usually deep and likely strike a chord for some. The writing is powerful and I found myself highlighting lines from nearly every page. My only suggestion to readers is to go into this with an open heart and mind. Try not to open the book with preconceived notions and you'll likely appreciate what a masterpiece it is. As with all of Raeder's books, Cam Girl offers an insightful perspective that resonates deeply. Leah's evocative and poetic prose draws you in and leaves you utterly spellbound. One of the reasons I've never been disappointed with Raeder is the writing although dark at times, it's an honest account of powerful emotions that many people experience, yet few are brave enough to acknowledge. For some, Raeder's books may be seen as controversial, but they are nonetheless captivating. I'm glad there is a writer out here that can connect not only with the LGBTQ community, but she is an author whose voice can transcend gender and sexuality and force people to take a hard look at themselves as well as their perception of others. There is a raw and painful undercurrent that forces you to think, forces you to feel, forces you to connect with these characters. Leah Raeder's writing often gives you a bit of a harsh yet plausible reality check and you're usually left stunned. I read this book in one sitting and could not put it down. I knew from Black Iris and Leah's hilarious tweets that Cam Girl would be different and it definitely was. I stopped thinking in terms of gender and just read about these characters who loved, hurt, and clung to each other for support and hope. It was a poignant reminder of how far we still have to go. I don't make a habit of reading reviews about books I read, but I came across a few that made me wonder if these characters were heterosexual would the ratings have been a bit higher? I'll leave that to you to decide. For me this was a wonderful book. Every character was connected to some piece of Leah's puzzle and by the end you may figure it out as I did, but the way things unravel is always the prize. I implore you to also read the acknowledgments. They always give you bit more of who Leah is and what struggles helped created this amazing author. As with all of Raeder's books, if you really pay attention, you'll learn something. Highly recommend this to all readers.
There are so many colors out there, and colors that don't exist, and Leah Raeder sheds light on all of them in CAM GIRL. But blue and all of its hues outshines the rest of the colors in CAM GIRL in the most breath-taking sort of way. CAM GIRL is more than just colors. It is more than voyeurism. It is more than sex. It is an intense and lyrical study in identity. How you identify yourself, how you present yourself, and how the world sees you is covered is discussed in depth with layers of blue and gold veins and fragments of red. Vada and Ellis are best friends and something more. Something Vada can't bring herself to put a name on. Vada knows she is bisexual, but she is terrified of being seen as someone other than Vada, and she worries being with a girl will attach unwanted labels to her. Yet she can't carve Ellis out of her heart - her friend she has always called her prince and been drawn to the more masculine qualities of Elle. I really wanted to write a long review for this, but the words cannot come to me. This book is one-of-a-kind with its nonbinary romance, mystery behind the car crash, the victim's father's obsession with Vada & Ellis, overwhelmingly vivid breathplay, and geeky references. It is empowering towards anyone who feels they cannot fit into a box society has assigned them. It is a must read. Make sure to read the acknowledgements.
Becca: Wow Leah Raeder is amazing! Every time that I read one of her novels, I end up a raw, emotional and a little scarred. Cam Girl was no different and brought forth so many emotions! Vada is emotionally and physically broken after a car accident that ruined her life, her career and her relationship. She is depressed, broken and alone. She is approached to be a Cam Girl and her self-destructive nature combined with the fact that she has no money or place to live forces her to agree. While camming, she meets Blue and begins to develop and online relationship with him. When a ghost from the past also walks back into her life, things begin to change for Vada. She has a lot of choices to make, and has to decided if she is going to stop running from who she is. The synopsis and my brief explanation just barely touch on the content of this book. It is really about so much more! Forgiveness, second chances, understanding and loving yourself… just to name a few! Lisa: Well said, Becca! That pretty much sums up the outline of this story in a nutshell. Becca’s right though… there’s definitely a lot more to this story than meets the eye. There are secrets, lies, and tons of danger surrounding Vada in her life right now. After the car accident, her injured arm has never been the same, making her career as an artist almost impossible. Thus begins her Cam Girl ventures. I honestly didn’t know much about Cam Girls before reading this story, but now I feel like an expert. “If someone makes you happy, that is not a mistake. Falling in love is not a mistake.” I loved the intensity of this story, both the sexual situations and emotional scenes. Leah Raeder’s writing is always poetic in nature, insanely thought-provoking, and utterly mind-consuming. Her stories are not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. THE CHARACTERS: Lisa: Vada is a tough character to like at first. Her snarky better-than-everyone personality is extremely off-putting, especially when you see how she treats others around her. She refuses any kind of help, even when she obviously needs it most. She’s a completely scarred mess emotionally, and this causes her defenses to increase and good judgment to decrease. Surrounding her are a vast array of characters, including this enigma, Blue, who she finds herself connecting with on an extremely deep level. Though she hasn’t met him yet in real life, she’s drawn to his intelligence, protectiveness, and understanding of what she’s going through. Becca: I had very mixed emotions regarding Vada, one on hand I despised the decisions that she made and on the other I felt so bad for the deep depression she suffered from. She was very self-destructive in nature and at times, it was hard to read. “Part of loving someone is wanting them to be happy, even if it hurts you.” There are multiple secondary characters in this novel and some play bigger parts than others. It is hard to tell a lot about them without spoiling some parts of the story. There is Blue, who is mysterious and sexy. I loved guessing who he was throughout the novel, Lisa and I would send messages back and forth hypothesizing over it! Vada’s ex is also a large part of the novel. The relationship between the two of them, dysfunctional as it was really helped me to understand Vada more. “Sometimes people set themselves up to be hurt by a situation, instead of hurting themselves directly. To absolve the blame.” OVERALL: Becca: Cam Girl was addicting, distur
Leah Raeder is an artist with her words. I’m completely convinced that she painted the pages of this book with her verses. I remember jokingly saying how much I needed to read this ASAP, but it never felt as true as it did once I actually finished reading the story. “Simplify what you see until it’s only bones, essence, soul. That’s the only way to understand what something really is.” CAM GIRL is complex, with characters that are hurting—deeply hurting— because of an accident that ruined each of their lives for completely different reasons. Their stories are lyrically told through Vada’s POV and poetic in a way that is entirely Leah Raeder. “I felt perpetually unready for my life. Maybe that was the trick: accepting that readiness wasn’t real, wasn’t ever going to happen, and living anyway.” A car accident set off a series of events that shaped all of the characters differently. For some, it sparked life into their lives; for others, it diminished the spark of life. How the characters let the accident define them is also equally different. Vada can't seem to forget or escape that one night; Ellis won't talk about it at all. Vada is vulnerable, yet strong. She is fierce, yet can easily be crumbled. Love is her weakness. Ellis is her weakness. After the accident, things change between the two of them. They grow distant and lose sight of what they truly want. Their friendship/relationship was staggering in its toxicity. “You can miss someone without missing the way they hurt you.” I could feel the way they built each other up just as easily as they could tear each other down. I didn’t know if I wanted to root for them because of their manic love. It was wicked and secretive; the way they loved with abandon was frightening in its honesty. “You can fall in love again with someone you’re already in love with. It’s like waking from a dream within a dream and finding another layer, the colors more vivid, the light more lucid, the fantasy more real. Being in love is an endless loop of waking to reverie.” Vada becomes a cam girl because it’s easy money–something she is desperately lacking—and because she finds the control in it heady. She finds comfort in this sense of empowerment and she appreciates the attention she receives. Then she meets a man who goes by the name of Blue, and he just somehow understands her completely – he sees through her loneliness and isn’t afraid to call her out on it. She finds solace in camming with him because sometimes not having all the answers to a person makes them all the more intriguing. “The words hung in the air between us. I felt so light now. The truth is a heavy thing, and you can’t fight the undertow forever.” The feeling of utter aloneness that some of these characters feel is deeply jarring. Leah writes with honesty and passion. Her words are enthralling and tell a story unlike any I’ve ever read. This story holds secrets that will have you feeling like maybe if you could just read a bit faster, flip the pages a bit quicker, you'll be closer to figuring them all out. CAM GIRL takes apart the idea of gender and will help you better understand gender and sexuality, especially because the two aren't mutually exclusive. CAM GIRL is gritty, addictive, and about accepting a person at their very core. It's about accepting a person's soul. “All art comes from pain.”