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.
How to Be Remy Cameron is a well-written, diverse novel that explores the complex topic of identity through the lens of a teenage boy’s AP Lit essay.
The novel is framed by an essay that Remy’s been assigned to write from his AP Lit class, which I thought was super smart and well-done. The essay, which is supposed to answer the question “Who am I?” is dubbed “the essay of doom” by Remy, and it comes up repeatedly throughout the story.
At its core, this is a book about identity. Remy, who is gay, black, and adopted, grapples with who he is and how his labels define him, and I think that the author writes this conflict really well.
Remy is a great main character. I love how thoughtful he is, and I think that a lot of teens will be able to relate to his struggles with defining himself, regardless of whether or not they have the same labels as he does.
There’s a super great, diverse cast of characters. I especially loved Rio, Remy’s funny best friend, and Brook, another friend who’s really protective of Remy, which was really cute.
This book does such a great job with its family dynamics—there are a bunch of funny family moments, and there are so many wholesome relationships. Remy’s parents are prominent characters (which I appreciated immensely since those relationships are often overlooked in YA novels) and Remy is absolutely adorable with his little sister, Willow. The book also explores Remy’s new relationship with his birth sister, which I really liked as well. We need more books like this that explore family dynamics, especially in adoptive families!
The author touches on a lot of important topics, such as coming out, problematic LGBTQ+ media representation, racial fetishization, the intersection of race and sexuality, and how confused people get when they see transracial families in public (related to that one haha).
The romance is super cute, especially when the love interest is bonding with the main character’s little sister. Also, the two characters talk about consent, which I loved!
I appreciated the pop culture references to Harry Potter and Marvel/DC. This may not be a positive point for everyone, but personally, I enjoyed them.
One of Remy’s friends is a female football player! This is not a big part of the book but it made me very happy.
I only have a few complaints; firstly, the writing is occasionally a bit sloppy and hard to follow. Overall, the book was well-written, and some of the parts that confused me may have been fixed in the final copy, (I had an ARC.) but I wanted to mention it here since it did detract from my reading experience.
For the most part, the author seems to do a pretty good job with writing teenagers, but there were a few times where the dialogue felt a little out of touch with Gen Z—I don’t know any teenagers who say “epicness” or “eff.” (If we’re gonna curse, we usually just say the actual word.)
I also wish that Sara’s character had been explored a bit more. (Perhaps a spin-off novel is in order??)
If you’re a fan of introspective, character-driven contemporaries, I would definitely recommend How to Be Remy Cameron. I, for one, relished the chance to read such a delightful, diverse book, and I can’t wait to pick up Julian Winters’ previous novel!
Diversity Rep: gay, black, and adopted main character; lots of POC and LGBTQ+ side characters
Warnings: discussions of racism, homophobia, past minor characters’ death, and alcoholism; depictions of homophobic bullying; a scene involving brief sexual harassment/racial fetishism; sexual content; teen drinking/drug use
(Btw, Interlude Press’s website has a page with content warnings for all of their books, which I love!)
If you’ve read How to Be Remy Cameron or are planning on doing so, let’s chat about it in the comments! Thanks for reading!
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!