Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Book Review: Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

This e-ARC was provided through NetGalley in return for a free and honest review!

What it's about:
     Cameron is an amazing budding cosplayer who dreams of getting into the CalTech costume department in order to one day design costumes for all of the nerdy things.  However, when she and her friends end up winning a cosplay contest based on a game that she doesn't play, a storm of angry internet trolls is activated.

When a nerdbro totally gate keeps her on her first visit to the ONLY comic store in the town she's just moved to, she decides to see how the other half lives (and shops for comics) and borrows some of her twin brother's clothing to become: Boy-Cameron!

When she accidentally on purpose makes friends with one of the other comic store employees and gets invited to play in a game of Dungeons and Dragons, things get a little more complicated than she had ever expected them to.  She then has a predicament: stay Boy-Cameron and continue the charade, or return to being her normal self and risk being abandoned by her brand-new friends?

What I thought:

       This made my nerdy, D&D obsessed, cosplay n00b heart so very happy.  This was probably my most anticipated read of the year because it aligns with just about *everything* I am currently obsessed with, and it *mostly* did not disappoint.  

Despite being a pretty nerdy individual myself, and being a girl, I've don't know that I've ever really had that lovely experience of male gatekeeping (I have strong opinions about ANYONE who gate keeps, but that's a tale for another time), so I couldn't relate directly to Cameron's experiences there.  However, I know it's a thing that happens, and it's something I'd totally word murder someone for doing to me.  

Cameron and the other characters were really solid and believable.  I loved Why and loved to hate Brody--his comments were just such a thing that I could see an angry troll saying, it was almost like the author hung out on 4chan before writing (for research purposes, of course). I loved that all of the characters had fully fleshed-out backstory--it made the story feel really full and made you get attached to them.  

The idea that a girl would have to dress as a boy in order to enjoy something as widely-spread as comic books or superheroes or video games both makes me sad and angry--something that was portrayed very well in this book and gave me the Strong Emotions.  I think Nerd-dom is a place for all, and should be open to new people.  We're members of the best club, and I am ALWAYS happy when I find someone who is even a little bit interested in something I also love!

My favorite part of this book, I'd have to say, were the bits that talked about D&D.  I may be a little biased, since I've just entered this community myself, but OH BOY did I find myself highlighting all the quotes about the discovery and confusion that is getting ready for/playing your first game of D&D. The little comics that went along with the game sessions in the book were hilarious, and made me wish I wasn't reading the book on the tiny screen of my phone so I could better see all of the details.  

I enjoyed this book immensely--don't get me wrong--but there were just a few things that knocked it down from that ever-coveted 5 stars.  Firstly, there was a bit of a lack of communication in many parts of the story. I feel like if the truth about the horrible things happening to Cameron online had been shared with the important people in her life earlier on, things could have been dealt with in a much less messy fashion.  Instead she just internalized everything and then froze up when people got mad at her.  I know, I know, if everyone communicated well there'd be none of the drama that created half of the story, but still, it bugged me a little, especially with her family.  Like...they're your family, they're not going to judge you for flack you're getting for posting your amazing creations. 

Another thing that bothered me was that the ending of the story felt a bit rushed.  I was left wanting more explanation, more reaction to the truth coming out, and what I got wasn't that. It felt as though everyone got SUPER ANGRY that she didn't tell them she was actually a girl, then got over it offscreen and suddenly everyone was happy again.  

Beyond that, this story was mostly about a nerdy girl who just wanted be be a nerd, and make beautiful outfits based on nerdy things, and NOT GET BOTHERED WHILE DOING SO, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.  It was full of nerdy references and D&D and cosplay and captured both the horrors and the joys that can be experienced as a girl in the nerd community.  

Rating:  4 stars.

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