The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga

Book Info
The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga
©2006 Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, NY
ISBN 978-0618723928

Plot Summary
Donnie, AKA Fanboy, just started his sophomore year of high school and it’s already off to a terrible start. The bullies at school seem to have made it their personal agenda to make Fanboy’s life a living hell, and to make the matter worse he’s been all but abandoned by his supposed best friend, Cal, in favor of sports and popularity. His home life isn’t much better since his mom recently became pregnant, and the fact that he and his step-dad clash on many levels. Pretty much the only thing he finds solace in is the secret graphic novel he’s been working on, and the bullet he carries around in his pocket, until he meets a kindred spirit in Kyra, AKA Goth Girl. She is cynical, foul mouthed, shares his love for comics and graphic novels and hatred for the jocks and popular jerks. Goth Girl is everything Fanboy needs, but will he realize it before it’s too late to save her and himself?

Reader’s Annotation
Fanboy and Goth Girl were lost in the overwhelming world of high school jocks and bullies, until fate brought them together. She is a cynical rebel with a foul mouth, and he is a shy comic book writer, but can their mutual understanding help them overcome those who misunderstand them?

Critical Evaluation
After reading Lyga’s controversial novel Boy Toy, I was eager to take a look at his other work. I was not sure what to expect, but The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl was far from disappointing. While it’s not quite as controversial as Boy Toy, this book still deals with tough issues and deep and meaningful subject matter, specifically surrounding the potentially harmful effects of teen bullying. The writing is so intense that the reader follows Fanboy into some of the darkest places of his mind, really ensuring a vivid image of what it would be like to actually be in Fanboy’s shoes in this awkward stage of life. But through the darkness comes light, and the book teaches valuable lessons, asserting that no one’s life is perfect and everyone, and I mean everyone, has their own demons.

Information about the Author
After graduating from Yale with a degree in English, Barry Lyga worked in the comic book industry for ten years. He wrote comics for part of that time, but also was responsible for spearheading and developing Free Comic Book Day, the comics’ only industry-wide promotion. During those years, he was a spokesperson for the industry in general, quoted in countless newspaper and magazine articles, as well as appearing on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” He co-wrote a book on incorporating comic books and graphic novels into school libraries and has spoken on the topic at regional and national conferences.

In 2006, his first young adult novel, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, was published to rave reviews, including starred reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal. USA Today called it “an entertaining read no matter what age you are.” VOYA commented, “A triumphant finale leaves readers wanting to read the novel again and again.” SLJ listed the book as one of the best of 2006. His second young adult novel, Boy Toy, received starred reviews in SLJ, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus. VOYA gave it its highest critical rating, and the Chicago Tribune called it “…an astounding portrayal of what it is like to be the young male victim.” His third novel, Hero-Type, hit stores in Fall 2008 and, according to VOYA “proves that there are still fresh ideas and new, interesting story lines to be explored in young adult literature.”

Lyga lives and writes in the big city. His comic book collection is a lot smaller than it used to be, but is still way too big.

From the author’s website.

Realistic Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Coming of Age

Curriculum Ties
Sociology, Psychology

Booktalking Ideas
Discuss Fanboy’s relationship with his bullet. Do you think he would ever commit violence?

Discuss teen bullying and its effects.

Reading Level/ Interest Age

Challenge Issues

  • Sexuality
  • Violence
  • Suicide

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.

Why Included?
I wanted to experience other books by Barry Lyga after reading his controversial novel, Boy Toy. I was also drawn to the idea of a geeky underdog and his Goth girlfriend as the protagonists.


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