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.

Genre
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
15+

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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Boy Toy by Barry Lyga

Book Info
Boy Toy by Barry Lyga
©2007 Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, NY
ISBN 978-0618723935

Plot Summary
Nearly everyone has been “hot for teacher” at one point in their lives, and Eve Sherman was the seventh grade history teacher that all the boys had a crush on. For 12 year old Josh, it became much more than just a crush when Eve took him back to her home one day when he missed the bus and seduced him into an ongoing sexual relationship. Eventually, the cat gets out of the bag, and Eve went to jail.

This was five years ago, and now Josh is trying to pick up the pieces of his life in the aftermath of his experience with Eve. He was damaged and victimized, now suffering from violent anger and fear of relationships. He has a crush on his childhood friend, Rachel but is afraid and unsure of how a real relationship should be. So far, he has managed to cope by immersing himself in baseball and trying desperately for a scholarship, but Eve is about to be released on parole. Can he overcome his past?

Reader’s Annotation
“How to please a woman” isn’t something often found on a twelve-year-old’s list of things learned in school, but for Josh Mendel it was number ten of ten. Now seventeen, Josh is trying to put the broken pieces of his life in order, recovering from being seduced by his seventh grade history teacher so many years before.

Critical Evaluation
Boy Toy is yet another book that I learned about while doing research for my intellectual freedom paper. I had read that the author had received feedback from many librarians, praising the book and saying how well written it was, but that they just couldn’t justify stocking in their library. I interpreted this to mean that this book about a female teacher’s sexual relationship with a student tells a great story, is incredibly well written, but is perhaps a  little on the graphic side in the manner in which the controversial tale is told. Usually, when I hear something like this, my instinct is that there is even more reason to include such a book in a library’s collection. A librarian should be prepared with defenses because the things that people don’t want to talk about and that make them feel uncomfortable are exactly the stories that need to be out there being told. This book lived up to all of my expectations and I am proud that my local library has this in its collection.

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.

Genre
Realistic Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Curriculum Ties
N/A

Booktalking Ideas
Discuss the effects that Josh’s ordeal had on the rest of his teen life.

Why did Eve seduce Josh, and what do you think she got out of it?

Reading Level/ Interest Age
16+

Challenge Issues

  • Sexual explicitness
  • Foul language

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.
    • Be familiar with awards and positive feedback the book has received.

Why Included?
I was introduced to the book while doing research for a term paper on intellectual freedom. It seemed like exactly the kind of book I would want to read and include in my collection.

Gamer Girl by Mari Mancusi

Book Info
Gamer Girl by Mari Mancusi
©2008 Dutton Children’s Books, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0525479956

Plot Summary
In the wake of her parents’ divorce, Maddy finds herself in a new town and a new school. All hopes of a fresh start are quickly thrown out the window when an unfortunate accident on the first day of school lands her the nickname “freak girl.” In the city, she had a tight group of friends, but now she has no one and feels like she’s destined to stay that way forever. She finds herself retreating into her drawing – manga art – until she receives the new online role playing game Fields of Fantasy. Here, Maddy can escape the horrors of her real life and finally be herself. She immerses herself into her character Allora who is not only powerful, strong and brave, but a beautiful Elfin princess as well. Through Allora, Maddy even manages to find virtual love when she meets fellow gamer and valiant champion, Sir Leo. Unfortunately everyone knows you can’t escape reality forever, and Maddy must eventually face the Haters. Can she use the confidence and strength she has developed in the game to overcome her problems in real life?

Reader’s Annotation
Video games can serve as magical escapes, and for Maddy who is recovering from her parents’ divorce and struggling in a new town, Fields of Fantasy is just that. Unfortunately, she can’t avoid her problems forever, but can she use the skills she has acquired in the game to help her combat her real life problems?

Critical Evaluation
The world of online gaming is largely male dominated, so as a female and former PC gamer I was really excited by the premise and female gamer point of view of this book. While I ultimately enjoyed the book, I was mostly unimpressed in its execution. On the plus side, I was able to relate to it pretty well, it was an easy read and the writing was well done. I enjoyed the rotation between the excerpts from the in-game chat and the first person narrated story. I found the dialog to be incredibly realistic. Mancusi really captured how gamers talk which made me feel nostalgic, but for someone not familiar with gamer-speak, it might seem slightly confusing or weird. My major complaint about the book is that the story felt very cliché which left me feeling slightly disappointed.

Information about the Author
Mari Mancusi used to wish she could become a vampire back in high school, but she ended up in another blood sucking profession –journalism — instead. Today she works as a freelance TV producer and author of books for teens and adults.

When not writing about creatures of the night, Mari enjoys traveling, cooking, goth clubbing, watching cheesy horror movies, and her favorite guilty pleasure–videogames. A graduate of Boston University and a two time Emmy Award winner, she lives in Austin, Texas with her husband Jacob and their dogs Mesquite and Bowie.

Visit the author’s website.

Genre
Realistic Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Nerd Lit

Curriculum Ties
N/A

Booktalking Ideas
Discuss the similarities and differences between online friends/relationships and those in real life. Can you really be friends with someone you’ve never met?

Reading Level/ Interest Age
12+

Challenge Issues

  • Occasional foul language

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 read Cory Doctorow’s For the Win and despite including female gaming characters, seemed mostly geared towards a male audience. I came across this book and was eager to see how gaming was portrayed from a female point of view.