Goth Girl, Queen of the Universe
Bounced between foster homes since the age of seven, Jessica knows better than to set down roots. Most of the kids at her new Michigan high school think she’s a witch anyway (because, you know, goth). The only one who gives her the time of day is geeky Oscar, who wants to recruit her fashion skills for his amateur cosplay group. But Jess is fine showing off her looks to her Insta fans—until a woman claiming to be her biological mother barges into her DMs.
Jess was claimed by the state when her biomom’s mental illness made her unstable. While their relationship is far from traditional, blood ties are hard to break. There’s only one problem: Jess can’t reunite with her mom in New York City without a bunch of paperwork and she worries her social worker will never approve the trip. That’s when she remembers Oscar’s cosplay group, which is aiming for that big convention in New York . . .
So, Jess joins Oscar’s team—with every intention of using them to get to her mom. But her plan gets complicated when she discovers that, actually, cosplay is pretty great, and so is having friends. And Oscar, who Jess thought was just a shy nerd, can be as gallant and charming as the heroes he pretends to be. As the big convention draws near, Jess will have to decide whether or not chasing a dream of “family” is worth risking the family she’s built for herself.
Zrull's debut vulnerably and empathetically celebrates geekdom and connection featuring a goth queen teen who uses her image as a shield against the world. Sixteen-year-old white Jess, who entered foster care when she was seven after her biological mother was institutionalized for schizophrenia, now lives in Detroit with new foster mother Barbra. Her prickly nature doesn't stop geeky Mexican American Oscar, who has an anxiety disorder, from recruiting Jess and her exemplary makeup and sewing skills to help his cosplay team prepare for the World Cosplay Expo. Initially reluctant, Jess agrees to help when she learns that the expo is in N.Y.C., where her biomom is purported to live. Primarily hoping to reunite with her biomom, Jess is nevertheless surprised to realize she enjoys cosplaying with her new friends, including queer Asian coder Emily and Black gamer Gerrit, while slowly falling for Oscar. Zrull sensitively depicts complex topics such as mental illness, body positivity, and foster care via a confident, good-humored protagonist and a fully realized cast. Jess's joyful cosplaying exploration inspires, and her willingness to open up to those who care for her is thoroughly uplifting. Ages 14 up.