Chaotic Good: YOU HAVE TO READ IT

Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

Published by Knopf, scheduled for March 2018

Genre: YA, Contemporary

Pages: 256

THERE AREN’T EVEN WORDS. I INHALED Chaotic Good. I read it in one sitting and will absolutely, definitely be buying a copy to read again. It’s my favorite book of the year. Of several years. Let’s get into it.

Can we please talk about this cover? It’s so beautiful. I’m in love.

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. 

Dear Dwayne With Love

The premise of Chaotic Good intrigued me immediately, because your girl is a nerd. I’ve played D&D, Call of Cthulhu. I’ve spent many a Friday night in a room with a bunch of dudes playing tabletop games. I kicked EVERYONE’S ass at Geek Battle. This book sounded like it would be a love letter to nerdiness, and I knew if that was the case, I would adore it.

It does not disappoint.

It brings up SO many points about what it’s like to be a girl in nerd culture. Some MUCH needed reflection on the male gate-keeping of nerd culture. I knew I would love it, but I didn’t know just how much.

I also really love the girl-dresses-as-guy-to-infiltrate-guy-space thing.

See All the Stars by Kit Frick

The writing is perfect. Effortless, easy. Hilarious.

There are also many cartoons throughout the book, showing what is happening within the D&D campaign, and I love this touch.

The pacing is spot on. I flew through this book in a couple of hours. It’s also exactly as long as it needs to be, which isn’t super long! Every word is absolutely necessary. A perfect YA novel.

(These are the chapter headings, can we please talk about how cute they are?)

See All the Stars by Kit Frick

I LOVE these characters.

We have Cameron, our narrator, who is funny and smart and witty and so passionate about what she does. I love a YA with a narrator who knows exactly what they want and goes the hell after it. Cameron goes through some very significant harassment, the kind we all remember from the likes of Gamergate, and she throws herself further into her work, her designs. We need to see more of this. Cameron also stands up for herself, which is gorgeous and beautiful and I’m here for it.

Cooper, Cameron’s twin brother, is amazing. Their dynamic, their effortless back and forth, is one of the beautiful things about the novel. He plays D&D with her even though he’s not about it, and lets her borrow his clothes. That’s a pretty damn good brother.

Why and Lincoln, two of the guys from their D&D campaign, add SO MUCH to the story. Again, here, every character is necessary. There’s no fluff. Lincoln’s grandma who runs the fabric store, Cameron and Cooper’s parents, even Brody, the dudebro in the description. Every character brings something unique to the novel.

Cameron stays in her boy clothes for a bit longer than is necessary, because she relishes the safety and anonymity of being an average guy. It’s all throughout the story: at one point she mentions how much easier it is to shop in a comic book store as a boy. In another part, walking alone at night, she talks about how she would normally be scared. But she’s in her guy clothes, and thus, “invisible.”

I think everyone can benefit from reading something that shows so clearly what it is often like to be a girl and eventually a woman. It goes way beyond being a D&D geek or cosplayer, these things are practically universal.

We also have two main gay characters, woot woot!

I’m gonna do something I never do here, and tell you beautiful people a personal story.

I am a HUGE fan of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I have a tattoo on my book arm of a 42 that says “DON’T PANIC” going through it. Walking along in Portland, one day, I saw a guy in a DON’T PANIC shirt, and I stopped him and said, “Hey, omg I love your shirt!” And was gearing up to nerd out with him, and he literally, to my face, said, “Please, bitch.” And walked away from me. Stuff like this happens ALL. The. Time. Nerd girls will forever have to prove their nerdiness, and it’s honestly bullshit. Soooo maybe you can see why this book struck such a chord with me, and why it probably will with many others.

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

I honestly squealed out loud. I cried. I screamed. I ADORE THIS BOOK. The general geeky goodness combined with an important message simply cannot be beat. Readitreaditreadit.

Each of these gorgeous photos links to the IG post, show these some love!

*I don’t own any of the photos used for aesthetics in this post. Each photo links to where I found it!*

Off the Bookcase: We Were Liars

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Published by Delacorte Press in 2014

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Suspense

Pages: 224

SO! I have decided that this year I’m going to do “Off the Bookcase” posts, where in between arcs I also read the lovely books that I have had on bookshelves, some for years.

So I started with We Were Liars by E. Lockhart! I knew nothing about it, I didn’t even know it was YA! (I have had it on the wrong shelf for years.)

If, unlike me, you know about it, you may know that everyone says it’s best to go in knowing nothing. And that’s fairly accurate. So I’m going to do a short review, explaining what I liked about it but with very few details.

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
 
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

Dear Dwayne With Love

Now if you’re like me, you’re like WHAT PREMISE? Because that blurb is aggravatingly, intentionally vague. For me, that’s incredibly upsetting. In fact, when I bought it, I remember very clearly thinking, “What the fuck is this?” But I opened it up and read the first page, and I knew I’d like the writing, and that had to be enough.

And really, the blurb does tell you what the book is about. A rich family, their island, and lies.

CAN WE TALK ABOUT HOW COOL IT IS THAT A CONTEMPORARY HAS A MAP IN IT?! I was so stoked on that. I LOVE maps. One edition of the book apparently has E. Lockhart’s hand-drawn map, also, which is very cool.

See All the Stars by Kit Frick

Are mostly terrible. Just expect that. And, I mean, they’re rich people with a private island? So like really, who is even surprised that they’re obnoxious.

I will say that I like Cadence, our narrator. And the characters I actively dislike, I really dislike. Which is great. There’s nothing I hate more than lukewarm. I can’t stand bland characters, and these are definitely not that.

See All the Stars by Kit Frick

THE WRITING THOUGH. This is what got me through a book about privileged kids on a private island, complaining about their lives.

The writing is honestly unparalleled. It shows how you do not need long, flowery sentences to say really profound things. Lines from this book will stick with me for a LONG time.

Cadence writes beautifully disgusting metaphors about what her headaches feel like. She writes little, short fairy tales. I really enjoyed these most.

And the formatting! Parts of it are written almost more like poetry than prose, with fascinating line breaks that make it almost difficult to catch your breath.

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

If, like me, you have somehow managed to avoid We Were Liars, it’s definitely worth the read. It’s short, only about 220 pages, and easily read in an afternoon.

Each of these gorgeous photos links to the IG post, show these some love!

*I don’t own any of the photos used for aesthetics in this post. Each photo links to where I found it!*

The Precious Dreadful is Dark and Hilarious

The Precious Dreadful by Steven Parlato

Published by Simon Pulse, Expected February 2018

Genre: YA, Paranormal

Pages: 352

SO WOW. If I had known how much I would love The Precious Dreadful, I would have gone at it a lot sooner! I let it sit on my computer for thirty whole days.

Can we please talk about this cover? It’s so beautiful.

Teddi Alder is just trying to figure out her life.

When she joins SUMMERTEENS, a library writing group, she’s only looking to keep herself busy, not go digging around in her subconscious. But as she writes, disturbing memories of her childhood friend Corey bubble to the surface, and Teddi begins to question everything: her friendship with her BFF Willa, how much her mom really knows, and even her own memories. Teddi fears she’s losing her grip on reality—as evidenced by that mysterious ghost-girl who emerges from the park pool one night, the one who won’t leave Teddi alone. To top it all off, she finds herself juggling two guys with potential, a quirky new boy named Joy and her handsome barista crush Aidan, who has some issues of his own.

As the summer unfolds, Teddi is determined to get to the bottom of everything—her feelings, the mysterious ghost-girl, and the memories of Corey that refuse to be ignored.

Dear Dwayne With Love

So I had a feeling I would like The Precious Dreadful just from that weird description. I love how the ghost is mentioned so offhandedly. “Oh, yeah, AND there’s a ghost.” Like her other problems are bigger.

I’m also such a sucker for anything involved in young people writing. So we have Teddi’s writing group, boy problems, mom problems, unreliable memory (I love me an unreliable narrator), and oh, yeah, that pesky ghost.

I knew if the book was as quirky as its description, I’d dig it. And it does not disappoint.

See All the Stars by Kit Frick

Is GORGEOUS. The voice captured me immediately.

The beauty for me is especially in this, like, incongruity between the super modern Teddi voice saying things like “legit” and that her illness might be “contage” but also comes out with these brilliant comebacks and gorgeous metaphors. This could have gone SO wrong but it works so well.

One ghost scene actually gave me the chills, which is a huge compliment. It is eerie and spectacular.

The pacing is spot on, this is easily the kind of book one could finish in a day.

The world-building is fantastic. I can feel Teddi’s crappy house and smell the pond. And y’all. THE POND. So much of this takes place around a pond where little Teddi and her childhood friend Corey played. I have no trouble seeing the pond, hearing what happens. It’s just so beautifully written.

See All the Stars by Kit Frick

So great. This is phenomenal because while the characters aren’t all always likable, they’re so incredibly real and you feel for them, even the crappier ones.

Our narrator, Teddi, is phenomenal. I loved her voice right away, and it never lets you down. Going through a less-than-perfect life with nothing but her dog and a ton of super dark humor, and it fucking works for me. Teddi is the one to make a bad situation worse with an ill-timed joke, and I’m so here for it. Teddi does have a rather infuriating relationship with her on again/off again boyfriend, Aiden, and I think it’s important to remember that while that drives us crazy, it’s VERY realistic for a girl her age, especially given her home life. She’s so loving, so feeling, even taking care of her drunk mom whom some would have given up on.

Speaking of her mom, wow. I KNOW THIS WOMAN. She is often awful, calling Teddi names and there’s a physical fight in there, too. But their relationship, their dynamic, their every interaction feels so authentic. I love their shorthand, their ease in communication. And even if her mom is awful, I want to root for her. I hope to be given a reason.

You know I love me a girl friendship, and the one between Teddi and her BFF Willa is awesome. It has bumps, oh lord it has bumps. But it is so solid and amazing and their knowledge and support of one another is beautiful.

We also can’t forget the ghost, who is so important even if she doesn’t say much. Her presence creeped me out in the best way.

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

I am DEFINITELY going to pick up Steven Parlato’s first book, and keep an eye out for anything coming up from him! This book is strange and creepy and so delightful.

Each of these gorgeous photos links to the IG post, show these some love!

*I don’t own any of the photos used for aesthetics in this post. Each photo links to where I found it!*

The Wicked Deep Is, Well, Wicked

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

Published by Simon Pulse, Expected March 2018

Genre: YA, Paranormal

Pages: 322

I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR A GOOD WITCH STORY. And when I heard the pitch for The Wicked Deep, that it’s like Hocus Pocus meets the Salem witch trials? Umm, YAS. In a lot of ways, this book does not disappoint.

The Wicked Deep by Shea Earnshaw

Can we please be real about how gorgeous this cover is? Come on.

Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.

Dear Dwayne With Love

The Premise of The Wicked Deep is what drew me in immediately. I LOVED the idea of more modern witch trials, especially because it has so many modern implications. And those implications are definitely explored in this book. With boys dying, the people of Sparrow go on literal witch hunts. But how important is it to get the right girl? Has that ever been the point? I hoped these ideas would be tested, and they are!

See All the Stars by Kit Frick

Is. Absolutely. Stunning.

The world-building? Insane. I feel Sparrow. I know it. I could draw it. And Lumiere Island, where our narrator lives. I don’t like boats and water creeps me out, but with these descriptions I can smell the sea, I can feel the boat rocking. I can hear the sisters singing, luring people into the water.

The Wicked Deep is eerie as hell. And given the subject matter? It absolutely should be. Teens drowning. Witches come back to life. I love feeling genuinely creeped out, and this book does it for me.

The pacing is on point. The book grabbed my attention from page one, and I read the whole thing in one sitting, other than a short break for dinner.

There are moments where I could not catch my breath, and others where I gasped aloud. One of the best compliments I can give!

See All the Stars by Kit Frick

The characters are the one area of The Wicked Deep that fell a little short for me, and the only area I’m not giving 100% love to.

The Swan sisters are awesome. We see them in action both in third person past tense, and through the eyes of our narrator in the current story line. For me, they’re amazing. Ultra believable. Their rage feels real, their quest for revenge makes sense to me.

Sadly I don’t love our two main characters. Their love story is, for me, a little too much, bordering on nonsensical. I don’t love it in theory or practice, and given that they’re our mc’s, they (rightfully) get a lot of page time.

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

I would, and will, read more from Shea Ernshaw.

The Wicked Deep is an amazing read. Stellar pacing, stunning world-building, and some really kick ass witches make for a quick, excellent read!

 

Each of these gorgeous photos links to the IG post, show these people some love!

*I don’t own any of the photos used for aesthetics in this post. Each photo links to where I found it!*

Bookish Boyfriends Can Be Your Newest Book Buddy

Bookish Boyfriends by Tiffany Schmidt

Published by Amulet Paperbacks, scheduled for May 2018

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Pages: 272

Okay. I was immediately attracted to Bookish Boyfriends. The premise just sounded way too cute, and I knew that if it was half as adorable as it sounded, I’d be on board. I had NO IDEA how much I would love this book.

Bookish Boyfriends

The first of two books in an intended paperback original series about a girl whose classic literary crushes manifest in real life. Merrilee Campbell, 16, thinks boys are better in books, chivalry is dead, and there’d be nothing more romantic than having just one guy woo her like the heroes in classic stories. She’s about to get the chance to test these daydreams when she, her best friend, Eliza, and her younger sister, Rory, transfer into Reginald R. Hero High, where all their fantasies come true—often with surprising consequences.

See All the Stars by Kit Frick

The writing is so. effing. cute. Fun, hilarious, intelligent. The word that comes immediately to mind is effortless. The tone is so lighthearted that I flew through the pages easily and readily. At no point did it slow down or become less interesting for me.

See All the Stars by Kit Frick

The characters are just completely phenomenal.

Two pages in, I made a note about how much I adore the relationship between Merrilee, our narrator, and her best friend Eliza. I LOVE girl friendships. Love them. The good, the bad, the in between. I want them all. This one is possibly one of my favorite friendships in all of YA.

I could write an essay about how much I love Merrilee, our narrator, who is fifteen and boy crazy. What is refreshing is that she’s boy crazy for boys in books, hence bookish boyfriends. She is SO quirky (describing her style as “toddler-chic” is something I love), SO silly. But also brilliant and unapologetically herself. We could all stand to be more like Merrilee. I’d like more girls to be comfortable with being both math geniuses and romance junkies. Her loyalty and friendship to Eliza is admirable and gorgeous and something all people should aspire to.

We have Eliza, a gorgeous girl obsessed with biology who is an excellent friend to Merrilee, even if she doesn’t get the romance thing.

And a whole slew of side characters all distinct and beautiful. I won’t even get into the leading men, except to say that I love them, also.

I’m also OBSESSED with Merrilee’s English teacher, though this is an area where I’m extremely biased.

This book has SO MUCH TO SAY ABOUT WOMEN. It is subtle; feminist undertones are there, constantly, but it isn’t enough to be off-putting to those less inclined to our ways. I LOVE loud, bold, in-your-face feminism but I also love that I’m seeing a lot of this, like, thinly veiled girl power in YA.

I love that the female characters in this book give you a ton to think about. We tend to think of girls (and ultimately women) as one thing. People are told to forget how multi-faceted teenage girls can be, and I think Bookish Boyfriends is a great example of their complexity.

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

I LOVE books like this where the tone is just so fun and lighthearted. No apocalyptic stakes, no end of the world around the corner. A girl and her life and her friends and her first experiences with dating.

I think this is great for people who like the softer side of YA. No cursing, no partying, no drugs or drinking. The kids are 15, so I think this is super fitting.

All in all this is just a great, quick read and I can’t wait for the next book!

 

***

*Note: My reviews are full of opinions. I may love a book. May want to marry it like the kid in the commercial for Peanut Butter Crunch (1999 was a great year for cereal and commercials, look it up). I may say a book is the best thing to happen to me since I started shaving my big toe. None of these things mean it is objectively good. I recognize that. Many times throughout my life, I have given a book I swore to be a life-changer to a friend/boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/acrobat. Shaking, quietly weeping, I’d hand it (and my heart) over. Only to find out several weeks later that for them the book was good, maybe even great, but not the life-giving, soul-renewing magic I’d purported. You may not like a book I recommend. Sue me.

**Please don’t sue me, I just write here.