Review: Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

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Published: 13 March 2018

Publisher: Knopf

Category: Young Adult/Contemporary

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.

Rating:  4 Stars

CW: bullying including cyber bullying, doxing

Ever since I read Whitney Gardner’s book You’re Welcome, Universe, I’ve been a fan of her writing because the style is comforting. It’s an easy one to pick up and put down, like a well worn shirt or blanket you can pull on when you’re in need of comfort and just want to relax.

Her newest book embraces geek culture and follows main character’s journey through it, a journey that it a lot of fun, but also touches on the darker side of the Internet and the anonymity it lends to cruel people.

There are moments in the book that were uncomfortable to read, including Atomix Comix worker Brody’s anti-female rhetoric and the troll emails that Cameron receives online, including but not limited to death threats. Those emails, comments, blog notes, and moments at Atomix Comix when when no one stood up to Brody made for a tense atmosphere that had the hairs on the back of my neck up, even from the comfort of my couch.

There are also amazing times to be found. The geektastic moments range from ones that even a casual fan will get, such as Dungeons and Dragons campaigns and Final Fantasy name drops, to more subtle references such as a podcast warning townspeople not to visit the local dog park (Welcome to Night Vale fans represent!).  There was also some multi generational bonding over D&D with Cameron’s dad and his friends for a scene that I liked.

This was a fairly short book so while the writing was a style that I like and the pacing was good, it still felt like something was missing. Things happened, things were resolved, but almost a little too easily. Cameron’s difficulties with the online trolls and the information that they leaked gets moved on from with relative ease. The person who leaked her phone number initially is never revealed as far as I could tell, though I could make some guesses. There’s also the nature of Cameron’s dressing as a boy and how gender is portrayed as a strictly boy/girl. I think there’s more that could have been done with this part of the story, especially considering the feelings that Cameron goes through toward the end when the big reveals are starting to happen.

If you’re a fan of geek culture, want to get a look of interspersed pages of Whitney’s comic book style art, or want to find a new author good for a chill read, pick up Chaotic Good. You may consider picking up your own d20 by the last page.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

 

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