Title: Chaotic Good
Author: Whitney Gardner
Genres: YA Contemporary
Cosplay, comic shops, and college applications collide in this illustrated novel, perfect for fans of Adam Silvera and Noelle Steveson!
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.
Chaotic Good is a delightfully nerdy, feminist and cute read, and I really enjoyed it. But there are two things that really bothered me. Let’s just start with those so we can get them out of the way and then fangirl about the rest of the book.
The main character cross-dresses for most of the book. She decided to do this after she went to a comic store where she was belittled the entire time just because she was a girl, and she thought going there as a boy would make it a lot easier. This didn’t bother me perse, but what bothered me was that in the entire book, there is not one single mention of non-binary people. Nothing. Not a word. Which then also caused a few slightly problematic scenes, like when the main character came clean and this other character basically told her that he had already figured out she was a girl dressing up.
It gave me flashbacks of Noteworthy, but at least there was one scene in which the character acknowledged non-binary people in that book, in Chaotic good there wasn’t even a single sentence.
Another thing that bothered me a bit was that a guy developed a crush on the ‘guy version’ of the main character, Cameron. She was very clear towards him about the fact that she didn’t like him that way and that she wanted to be friends, but according to her twin she was still leading him on by pretending she was a guy around him. What? How? What does that even mean? You can’t lead someone on just by being a certain gender? That’s… *sigh*
What I do want to add to this is that I got the ARC of Chaotic Good back in July, and the book comes out in March. Maybe the author has made changes, I’m not sure. I’m definitely planning on checking out the final product to see, and if there are differences in the way the things I’ve addressed are treated then I will definitely let y’all know.
Now, let’s move on to the good. And luckily, there was quite a lot of it.
One of the things that I loved most was that the main character loves cosplay, and makes all of the costumes herself. There were quite a few scenes in the book where she was sowing, and it was amazing. Entrancing. I always love reading about characters who are creating something. There’s always just something absolutely magical about it.
Cameron, the main character, posts pictures of her cosplay online and the abuse she receives was incredibly heartbreaking and hard to read about. The author includes various of these comments in the book, and they’re brutal. But they’re so real. They’re so much like the abuse I’ve seen a few people in the community get, and while it’s difficult to read, I really appreciate the author discussing the topic since I’ve never seen that been discussed in a book before.
Let’s just get back to the negative for a second because while writing this I remembered another thing that I didn’t really like and that’s the fact that the main character never really gets angry. So much shit is happening to her. She’s getting harassed, she is doxxed, her twin is angry with her, her new ‘friends’ give her shit, and she doesn’t get angry once. She even apologizes to her brother and her friends. I was so angry for her and I was kind of frustrated with some of her actions because I just wanted her to stand up for herself. Yell. Scream. Etc. But there was none of that. Which in turn made me feel even more frustrated.
This review is getting a bit too long, so let me just list a couple more things I liked about this book:
- The main character falls for a larger, very nerdy guy. Large guys are not often a LI, and it was great to see that change in this book
- The main character’s parents are older (in their 60’s) and they’re absolutely adorable, and have a great relationship
- There’s an elderly women in the book who is also very adorable but also badass and I loved her
- There are scenes where the characters are playing D&D and I loved reading about that, since I’ve never played before but I’ve always been intruiged
- The author has also drawn little comics that you can see throughout the book and I loved them!!!
- The writing is very fast paced and easy to read, so I finished the book in a day
So, overall, this book was incredibly fun, nerdy and easy to read, but the problems that I had with it did make it a lot less enjoyable to read. Authors: non-binary people exist. Don’t erase them. Your readers (or everyone, really) deserve better.