Zoe Rosenthal Is Not Lawful Good

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Published by: Candlewick
Release Date: April 6, 2021
Pages: 352
ISBN13: 978-1713588009


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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’s journey of self-discovery is a nerdy trip through pop-culture easter eggs that will have like-minded readers smiling knowingly with each allusion... A charming story of a closet nerd realizing her full potential and finding her fandom family."
—Kirkus Reviews

"A fast-paced character-driven story full of geekiness. Werlin highlights the need for racial and gender inclusivity in geek culture, demonstrating how fandoms can allow people to truly express themselves... Teens will also relate to Zoe’s relationship and college search woes...a quick, fun read."

"I love this book like no contemporary YA has ever been loved before! It's about finding your tribe. And what it feels like when you do. And how it changes you. Nancy Werlin naturally has to invent a series for her kids to be obsessed with: virus-hunters in space (and she wrote this 2 years ago!) - a renegade ship captained by a middle-aged Black woman and an all-female crew of physicians except for one mysterious man . . . and two who share one body. Just reading bits of it is thrilling! She also goes deeper into what it means for each generation of women to see themselves in roles like Uhura, Princess Leia . . . and even Squirrel Girl. I'm laughing on one page, sighing in awe and wonder on the next."
—Ellen Kushner, author of Swordspoint 


EXCERPT: Zoe arrives in Atlanta for Dragon Con: 

It hadn’t occurred to me that there would be Bleeders cosplayers here for Dragon Con. I swiveled in place and craned my neck, but I didn’t see any other Bloodygits. Unless they were camouflaged in Muggle clothes like me.

But there was certainly no lack of other cosplayers. As the crowd and I shuffled slowly along toward the escalator and exit, I gawked. I stared. I ogled.

Thranduil, the elf king from Lord of the Rings. A Wonder Woman mother and her matching small daughter. Three chatty stormtroopers. Walking Dead. Castiel from Super-natural, in his trench coat. Jon Snow and Daenerys (with a stuffed dragon on her shoulder). Oooo—Mr. Rogers in his cardigan! I couldn’t help it—I called his name and waved. He shouted back, “Hello, neighbor!” I got a little sniffly. It actually almost felt like Mr. Rogers himself had  greeted me.

There were also lots of people simply wearing geeky T-shirts. Moving upward on the long, steep escalator, I glanced self-consciously at my clothing: a billowing, light, sleeveless white top and capri leggings, orange sneakers. I could have borrowed Maggie’s WAKANDA FOREVER T-shirt if I had only thought of it. Or maybe done a simple lightning-bolt temporary tattoo on my forehead.

Only no. I wasn’t actually like these other fans. I’d never do cosplay. I was just here for a few hours, for my show. I wouldn’t embarrass myself in public. I mean, you could see that some of the Muggles were sneering or rolling their eyes at the cosplayers. Who needs that? I was a low-profile kind of person.

I made it out onto the people-packed street, where the difference in temperature between Boston and Atlanta made itself known. I was going to sweat. That didn’t matter. Orienting myself mattered. I started to pull out my map and phone, but someone near me, wearing a bright blue ball gown and a blond Elsa wig, was talking about going to registration with her friend, who wore a brown bodysuit and a reindeer headdress. So I just skulked along behind them.

I kept on staring as I walked.

A medieval Japanese female knight. A leather-clad black cat in a neon-green furry gas mask, with other green fur-ball things stuck all over his body. A steampunk Santa. Ruth Bader Ginsburg arm in arm with Sonia Sotomayor. A man who was naked except for tight silver shorts and silver body paint. A phalanx of Star Trek ensigns in red shirts who spontaneously fell onto the sidewalk together while everyone around them yelled, “They’re dead, Jim!”

My mom loves anything Star Trek, including the original series, so I got that one.

The cosplayers didn’t seem to mind being stared at. There was a lot of posing and preening.

“Awesome, huh?” said a motherly-looking winged angel. I discreetly checked to make sure this wasn’t directed at someone else. It wasn’t.

I smiled back. “Who’s that?” I pointed to the nearly naked guy in the silver paint.

“The Silver Surfer. He’s a Marvel Comics character.” She rolled her eyes. “One of millions.”

I didn’t know much about comics. “Okay, what about the neon cat?”

“That one I don’t know. Maybe he’s from a game.”

I’d lost sight of the Elsa cosplayer I’d been following before. I asked, “Are you going to the Sheraton to register? Can I just follow you?”

“Sure.” The angel gestured at some of the people streaming past us in the opposite direction. “You can tell they’re coming from registration because they’re all wearing their badges. Stick with me. So this is your first Dragon Con?”

“Yes,” I said. “You?”

“Oh, I’ve been coming for fifteen years. You’re going to have a fantastic time.” A wave to indicate an elderly  Princess Moana. “Everybody wearing their inside on their outside! Which is how life should always be.”

I suppressed a smile at her naivete. “But it’s not how life is.”

“Maybe not for everyone,” said the angel. “But you can make a free individual choice.”

“I take it you’ve forgotten high school,” I said drily.

“Nope. Never.” The angel laughed. “What year are you?”


“Planning for college?”

“Yes.” I thought of the long list of schools that Simon and I had finalized together over the summer. We had no idea yet where we’d end up; we only knew we’d do it together. That was so comforting.

“Well, unlike high school, Dragon Con is a place where you can be yourself,” the angel said with assurance. “It’s why you’ve come!”

No. I have just come to see my show, I thought.