YA Review: Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

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Title: Chaotic Good

Author:  Whitney Gardner

Release date:  March 13, 2018 (Disclaimer: I received an e-ARC of this book in exchange for a fair review)

Rating: 4/5

Two-sentence summary: Tired of having her fan status challenged by the dudebro owner of her city’s comic book shop, teenage cosplayer Cam uses her costuming skills to disguise herself as a guy. But the more “boy Cam” hangs out with her fellow (male) geeks, the more she longs for them to accept all of her—the real her—for who she is.

What I loved: Cam is, in a word, passionate. She’s passionate about cosplay, comics, and her geek identity. Nothing, not even the ignorant workers at the comic book shop, could take that away from her. But her passion is complemented by a need to be authentic with herself and with those around her. Her internal conflict of wanting to belong yet feeling alienated as a female comics fan draws attention to how harmful the “fake geek girl” stereotype is. While girl Cam has to constantly “prove herself” to the male geeks around her, boy Cam instantly makes friends with them. Because nothing changes except her perceived gender, she gradually gains confidence in her right to love what she loves without searching for arbitrary male approval.

Plus, the illustrations in this book are absolutely adorable. This is a mixed media story, so while it’s mostly told in prose, you get comic segments spread throughout the novel. I thought this was a fun, fitting touch that paired well with the overall geeky world that Cam inhabits. The prose generally transitions to and back from comics seamlessly and in a style reminiscent of Noelle Stevenson.

Quote: “Everything in Dotty’s life is adorned with so much love. All of it so incredibly girly, womanly. She wears her womanhood like a badge of honor. Now, I want to sew that badge on myself.”

Recommended: This book took me back to my cosplaying days in middle school but with a refreshing dash of feminism to go along with that nostalgia. If you self-identify as a geek, you’ll probably enjoy this book a lot. You know those books that you just dedicate an afternoon to and just enjoy for a few hours? This is one of those books. It’s a quick read in a very good way.

Next: Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

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