The Pros of Cons
Writer Vanessa Montoya-O'Callaghan has been looking forward to the WTFcon for months. Not just because of the panels and fanfiction readings but because WTFcon is where she'll finally meet Soleil, her internet girlfriend, for the first time.
Taxidermy assistant Callie Buchannan might be good at scooping brains out of deer skulls, but that doesn't mean it's her passion. Since her parents' divorce, her taxidermist father only cares about his work, and assisting him at the World Taxidermy and Fish-Carving Championships is the only way Callie knows to connect with him.
When a crazy mix-up in the hotel lobby brings the three girls together, they form an unlikely friendship against a chaotic background of cosplay, competition, and carcasses!
I genuinely can't imagine four different events happening simultaneously in the same complex, but it happens all the time at the novel's presumed location: the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. Without ever stepping foot outside the hotel and convention center, the authors paint a glorious, chaotic scene of percussionists, taxidermists, pop culture fans, and toddlers in tiaras sharing the same location for two or three days. The mix-ups and collisions that follow give readers fun scenes like Phoebe playing a xylophone solo with scalpels, a five-year-old beauty queen named Beige rebelling against her mother, and a nearly naked wannabe-Snape running drunkenly through the hotel lobby.
As funny it gets, it gets equally serious when the time calls for it. Phoebe has internalized misogyny to a horrific degree, Vanessa is stuck with the manipulative co-writer who's been leading her on and lying to her, and Callie is desperate to both get her father's attention and loosen his grip on her in the aftermath of her mom leaving them. They're all feeling adrift and friendless, but once they collide, the friendship that develops helps each girl grow into someone better and stand up for herself. Vanessa's storyline is the most arresting of the three, but Phoebe and Callie's stories are compelling in their own rights. They just don't have someone in their lives who's an unholy fannish combination of Msscribe and EL James.
WHAT LEFT ME WANTING:
Callie's storyline is the one most likely to make you cry, though the poor advice one character gives Callie is worrying. When she speaks to the character about her father's controlling behavior, such as lying to his ex-wife so she can't have their daughter for the summer, he tells Callie her dad "wouldn't try so hard to keep you near him all the time if he didn't want you around." Perhaps I've read too many stories of abusive, controlling parents, but it's chilling advice to me. Sometimes, parental control to the degree he asserts over Callie comes from someone feeling their child is their possession instead of a separate human being. Even my grandmother told me how her mother (my great-grandmother) wanted to keep her home and in a servant role rather than let her daughter live her life.
Soleil may not get the comeuppance she deserves for making Vanessa think they're in a relationship when they're not, but The Pros of Cons is a satisfying, entertaining read I'd be happy to reread when I have the time. We all need tales of geekishness, female friendship, and stuffed turkeys to get by in our messy little world.