Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner
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 brother 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 in this geek girl anthem from You're Welcome, Universe author Whitney Gardner, complete with fully illustrated comic pages inked by Gardner herself.
Synopsis from Amazon
I'm a huge fan of She's the Man (and Twelfth Night, the Shakespeare play that it's based on), so I was really excited when I first read about Chaotic Good. It 's been on my TBR for a while, but when it was finally ordered by our high school library, I decided to read it so I could give a book talk to my students. I'm so happy I did but it's a great social commentary on the gender roles in our society and how far we have to go to challenge them.
Message of Equality
At the core, this book is about gender equality and I think it's a great message that needs to continue to be fought for. It's 2018; we should really be past the division of "boy interests" and "girl interests" and just come to the realization that people cane have similar interests regardless of their genders. It was pretty shocking to read the comments and disgusting things people would post in outrage against women taking part in the comic community. I was outraged that this is something that women experience when trying to be part of something they enjoy; I love graphic novels and am happy that I've never been put down when I walk into a comic book store, but it was incredibly upsetting to realize that many women will experience sexist and derogatory comments simply by walking in to make a purchase.
A "She's the Man" Gender Swap is a Comment on Our Society
This book was also a reminder that we have a ways to go before our society truly achieves equality. One of the most insightful moments is when Cameron is walking home at night dressed as a boy and comments:
"I don't feel nervous walking alone in my boy clothes, and I realize this is why I kept it up so long. This feeling of invisibility, of unquestioned acceptance" (p.199).
This was a very specific moment that stayed with me after reading because the mentality behind it is what's so upsetting with our world; the fact that a woman cannot walk home with the same fearlessness and confidence that a man can. Females constantly have to be on guard and aware of our surroundings, which is a very sad way to live. It's a constant state of fear. Cameron's journey throughout this story was great to read and I think the realizations she gained between the treatment of men and women is important for us to keep talking about so that eventually it will change.
Secondary Characters Were Underdeveloped
With the exception of Cooper, the other secondary characters in the book felt underdeveloped. While this is obviously Cameron's story, her relationships felt either rushed or forced for the sake of letting the readers see her making male friends. Jen and Liv (her mysterious "best friends" in Portland) were so briefly mentioned that it wasn't clear if they were actually still friends or not. Liv makes a bigger appearance, but that takes almost the entire book, and made light of their friendship. Likewise, all of the male characters that Cam plays DD with are incredibly one-dimensional, which was a missed opportunity. Not knowing more about these guys made Cameron's reveal and ability to change their minds made less of an impact than it should have.
Overall, I thought this was a great book and it's one that I'm excited to recommend to my students. As a teacher, I saw just how many kids (of both genders) love to read graphic novels, and Chaotic Good is the perfect tie-in to start discussions about challenging gender role. I'd recommend this to younger readers (it's a pretty easy read) or to anyone who has an interest in something that isn't considered "gender appropriate" and has had to fight to gain the equality they deserve. I love that stories like this are being written and think they are especially great for kids to read about.
FINAL RATING: 4/5
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Hi, I'm Alexandra! I love reading (largely YA fiction, but sometimes I'll read "adult" books), playing board games, Nutella, and binge-watching TV shows on Netflix with my husband.
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2020 Reading Challenge
Alexandra has read 20 books toward her goal of 85 books.
2019 Reading Challenge
Alexandra has read 5 books toward her goal of 90 books.
2018 Reading Challenge
Alexandra has completed her goal of reading 80 books in 2018!
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