A buttoned-up overachiever works overtime to keep her inner nerd at bay—failing spectacularly—in Nancy Werlin’s hilarious and heartfelt return to contemporary realistic fiction. Planning is Zoe Rosenthal’s superpower. She has faith in a properly organized to-do list and avoids unnecessary risks. Her mental checklist goes something like this: 1) Meet soulmate: DONE! 2) Make commitment: DONE! 3) Marriage: TO COME! (after college). She isn’t sure which college yet, but it will have a strong political science department, since her perfect boyfriend, Simon, plans to “save the country,” as his sister puts it, “and the planet and everything.” Zoe will follow along, the perfect serious, supportive girlfriend. It’s good to have her love life resolved, checked off, done. But speaking of unnecessary risks, Zoe’s on a plane to Atlanta, sneaking off to Dragon Con for the second season premiere of Bleeders. The show is subject to her boyfriend’s lofty scorn, but Zoe is nothing like these colorful hordes “wearing their inside on their outside.” Once her flirtation with fandom is over, she will get back to the important business of planning a future with Simon. The trouble is, right now, Bleeders—and her fellow “Bloodygits”—may just mean the world to her. Will a single night of nerdery be enough? Best-selling and award-winning author Nancy Werlin is best known for science fiction, fantasy, and suspense, but here she turns her pen to realistic fiction with broad appeal. Confirmed nerds will revel in a diverse cast, zany fandoms, and cosplaying crowds, but this is for any reader seeking a smart, breezy coming-of-age story about finding your friends—and your inconvenient self.
Zoe Rosenthal is Not Lawful GoodFeatured
Simon is out to save the world with plenty of condescension and self-import, working for a senator's campaign. As her parents met in high school and are her dream couple, Zoe is convinced that Simon, also her first boyfriend, will be forever. Her future plans are all built around him and what he wants to do - he would hate it if he knew that she was a fan of something as banal as a TV show. Thus, the secrecy.
Once there, Zoe finds her people - other fans of the show Bleeders, called Bloodygits. However, she and they are surprised to find that there aren't that many other vocal fans - and if that is the case, the show may be in danger of not being renewed. They decide to band together to spread the word about the show and get other big fans hooked on the show by attending other, similar conferences. That is, if Zoe can keep it all a secret from her boyfriend.
What I loved: The book was ultimately a sweet story of friendship and embracing all the things you love. Zoe is in an unhealthy relationship, but she seems to be the only one who hasn't figured it out yet. The book includes some important realizations about relationships and the importance of being yourself in them. The descriptions of the show, fandoms, and the conventions was really fun, and I appreciated the infusion of humor throughout.
The friendship found through this group was overall really great, and I loved the way they showed up for and supported each other (with a notable exception). I also appreciated the rep with an enby character, a gay character, and a neurodivergent character. There were also some interesting added themes of the lack of female rep in sci-fi and the pros/cons of the reps that have happened as well as the lack of network support for female run shows.
What left me wanting more: I found Simon to be problematic throughout, and it was hard to imagine why Zoe was so set on him. I think it would have helped if the reader could have seen more of their history or the times in between conferences, as it was hard to buy into the relationship (but maybe it was more about the idea of Simon for her anyway). There were also a couple problematic things towards the end that were not fully addressed, particularly a betrayal within the friends group that was mostly glossed over (that should not have been OK so easily, in my opinion, as it was quite exploitative).
Final verdict: ZOE ROSENTHAL IS NOT LAWFUL GOOD is an entertaining read about embracing the things you love and finding your people. Would recommend for fans of THE BOOKWORM CRUSH, FANGIRL, and ADORKABLE.