*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: Chaotic Good
Author: Whitney Gardner
Publication Date: March 13, 2018
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Cameron’s cosplay–dressing like a fictional character–is finally starting to earn her attention–attention she hopes to use to get into the CalTech costume department for college. But when she wins a major competition, she inadvertently sets off a firestorm of angry comments from male fans. When Cameron’s family moves the summer before her senior year, she hopes to complete her costume portfolio in peace and quiet away from the abuse. Unfortunately, the only comic shop in town–her main destination for character reference–is staffed by a dudebro owner who challenges every woman who comes into the shop. At her twin brother’s suggestion, Cameron borrows a set of his clothes and uses her costuming expertise to waltz into the shop as Boy Cameron, where she’s shocked at how easily she’s accepted into the nerd inner sanctum. Soon, Cameron finds herself drafted into a D&D campaign alongside the jerky shop-owner Brody, friendly (almost flirtatiously so) clerk Wyatt, handsome Lincoln, and her bro Cooper, dragged along for good measure. But as her “secret identity” gets more and more entrenched, Cameron’s portfolio falls by the wayside–and her feelings for Lincoln threaten to make a complicated situation even more precarious.
This book was an excellent read with a feisty and talented protagonist who experiences a sort of coming of age over the course of the story as she learns more about who she is and what she wants. Cameron lives and breaths for clothing design, especially costume design. She loves to nerd out and make costumes of her favourite characters and her friends’ favourite characters. Things go awry on her sewing blog around the same time that her family moves to a new town. Cameron faces overwhelming sexist harassment through cyberbullying on her blog. At the same time, in person, she faces sexism from the guy down at the new local comic bookstore. To make things a bit easier for herself, she decides to conduct a social experiment and borrow her brothers clothes. This opens her up to a whole new world as she really experiences first hand how differently that men and women are treated, especially in the realm of fandoms.
The best thing about this book is that so many of the characters were NORMAL diverse people and not some fantasy or ideal of what teens should be. They vary in race, gender, and sexual orientation. Cam’s love interest is an “average” guy with a bit of extra weight and it’s absolutely endearing that she refers to him as “soft.” Cam herself is so vibrant and really finds comfort as both a dressy girly girl, in more typically male clothing, and especially dressed in cosplay.
As a lover of many things geek myself, as well as a budding D&D player, so many things in this book spoke to me on a level of personal interest. Although I have never come up against the same gender walls that Cameron does within my love of nerdy things and geek culture, I don’t doubt that it exists and is often a huge deterrent for many women. Gardner is ready to drop so many truth bombs with her novel. This book blows the conversations surrounding sexism and cyber bullying wide open. It’s incredibly awful knowing that this kind of stuff happens on the Internet everyday, but it’s so eye-opening and honest about the negative and potentially life-altering effect that Internet Trolls can have as they hide behind the safety of anonymity before tearing down others for no good reason beyond entertainment. Gardner also dives into sexual identity, romance, family, and friendships. She starkly contrasts male and female friendships and bases her story’s commentary about gender expectations and the subversion of gender norms.
What I didn’t like about this story was that the central drama is focused on Cam’s deception in dressing as a guy. The suggestion is brought up by her brother, but he is also the one who seems to take the most offence to it when it lasts too long, yet he does nothing to really help her out her secret. And really, all of this drama could have been avoided if Cameron just told the truth sooner rather than later. A lot of books these days seem to be relying on this trop and really if everyone just TOLD THE TRUTH, then all would be ok. Despite this though, my only qualm with this book, I really enjoyed this story. I think it needs to be getting more attention and I hope people will give it a chance.