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Roll for Initiative

In Whitney Gardner's book, a girl is so sick of being bullied because of her cosplaying that she decides to give it up. No, not cosplaying. Being a girl. Hey, it's all Chaotic Good.

Roll for Initiative

BOOK REPORT for Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

Cover Story: Charisma: 18
Drinking Buddy: Wisdom: 15
Testosterone/Estrogen Level: Strength: 14
Talky Talk: Intelligence: 18
Bonus Factors: Geek Girls
Bromance Status: My Favorite NPC

Cover Story: Charisma: 18

This. This is what YA covers are supposed to look like. A drawing of the main character in an interesting scene or with evocative props, like Cameron here, with her favorite outfits and disguises. Of course when this is re-released, we'll be stuck with photos of giant teen faces.

The Deal:

Seventeen-year-old Cameron has just relocated with her family from Portland, Oregon, to Eugene. She misses her old crew and has a hard time making friends with new people. She has her own internet costume design business, but for every satisfied customer, there's twenty male haters accusing her of being a wanna be geek girl who doesn't understand the fandom like they do. To make things worse, she needs to buy a lot of comic books to get the cosplay details down to the last stitch. But the only comic book store in town is clerked by Brody, a jerk who constantly directs her to the 'girl' section, while making obnoxious, sexist comments.

He wouldn't treat a boy like that! Cameron has half a mind to disguise herself as a man, just so she'd be treated with respect...Wait a minute. She is an expert in costuming. Why not? With the help of her twin brother, Cooper, Cameron shows up at the store in full boy mode. No one notices. In fact, she's invited to the weekly Dungeons & Dragons game. She has friends now. She's one of the boys. What could go wrong?

Drinking Buddy: Wisdom: 15

Cameron is a girl who can create any sort of fandom costume and make it work. Her dream is to be accepted into the California Institute for the Arts. While she's not deep into the backstory of the comic book heroes, she certainly can make them come alive. You'd think every geek on the west coast would be following her around, trying to get the courage to ask her out.

Nope, all she gets are a lot of internet trolls who accuse her of just wanting attention. Instead of fan mail, guys send her

Is it any wonder she gets sick of being treated like a girl? She'll just act like one of the guys until the big reveal moment, whenever that may be. But at the same time, these guys in the D&D group consider themselves to be Cameron's friends, and probably won't appreciate being lied to. Besides, if they don't like the real Cam, then are they truly her friends?

Testosterone/Estrogen Level: Strength: 14

So sexist clerk Brody is in the gamers group and Cameron is amazed at how differently he treats her as a boy. But then there's dungeon master Lincoln, with his huge, soft hands, his storyteller's voice, and handsome face. Cameron wouldn't be adverse to a little role playing of a different kind, which won't happen as long as Lincoln thinks she's a dude. On the other hand, nerdy clerk Wyatt gets a strong gay vibe from Cameron and asks 'him' out. Meanwhile, Cameron's twin brother Cooper is totally crushing on Wyatt and resents his sister for getting in the way. On top of all that, Cameron is friends with Dot, the old woman who runs the fabric store and is always trying to set Cameron up with her grandson, Lincoln, the dungeon master.

Of course, all this could be solved if Cameron would just tell everyone she's a girl. And then she reads her inbox, filled with hate and threats and decides to stay a guy. Just for one more day.

Talky Talk: Intelligence: 18

Now in most books where a cisgender person dresses as the opposite gender, it's played for laughs. Not here. Cameron just really wants to be liked, and with this group of friends, she's finally found her gang. Of course, that's all dependent on them thinking that she has a penis. Why should that matter? She's the same exact person: a talented designer, a geek to the nth power, and a good friend. But somehow, it does matter.

Of course, there were times where the alternate identity thing seemed forced. When Cameron has established herself as one of the gang, she's determined to just show up at the next gaming session in a sundress and the guys can just frickin' deal with it. But something always stops her. Sometimes it's the internet trolls getting to her. Sometimes it's an unfortunate interruption. But mostly, it's the author wanting to have a complete story arc and hit 60,000 words.

Still, I was rooting for her to the very end. And I liked the idea of a gay boy crush, rather than the trope of a girl falling for dude Cameron.

Bonus Factor: Geek Girls

Three amazing YA authors, wondering why I'm on their Comic Con panel (see below)

I've said it before, the word 'geek' used to burn. Now it's a badge of honor. But sometimes people take things to extreme, accusing fans of not being a true geek. Cameron, whose amazing talent with a sewing machine should make her a legend, instead finds herself the target of online hate, simply because she isn't into the backstory as much as other fans. At first, it's just annoying. But when someone figures out her phone number and address, the messages start getting creepy. Really creepy. And maybe that's why Cameron decides to stay in hiding, rather than to risk finding out her new guy friends are no better.

Bromance Status: My Favorite NPC

I enjoyed my adventures with you, and I hope to read more from this particular dungeon master.

Literary Matchmaking:

  

• You want another great book about a geek girl? Try Lily Anderson's The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You.

• Or Danika Stone's All The Feels.

• How about a book about a geek boy? Read Sarvenaz Tash's The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither money nor experience points for writing this review.

 

Brian Katcher's photo About the Author: Brian Katcher wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.