Review: The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl

Title: The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl
Author: Barry Lyga
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company (2006)
Genre: young adult, mainstream fiction, geek fiction

In Their Words:
Fanboy has never had it good, but lately his sophomore year is turning out to be its own special hell. The bullies have made him their favorite target, his best (and only) friend seems headed for the dark site (sports and popularity), and his pregnant mother and the step-fascist are eagerly awaiting the birth of the alien life form known as Fanboy’s new little brother or sister.

Fanboy, though, has a secret: a graphic novel he’s been working on without telling anyone, a graphic novel that he is convinced will lead to publication, fame, and—most important of all—a way out of the crappy little town he lives in and away from all the people who make it hell for him.

When Fanboy meets Kyra, aka Goth Girl, he finds an outrageous, cynical girl who shares his love of comics as well as his hatred for jocks and bullies. Fanboy can’t resist someone who actually seems to understand him, and soon finds himself willing to heed her advice—to ignore or crush anyone who stands in his way.

But Kyra has secrets, too. And they could lead Fanboy to his dreams…or down a path into his own darkness.

In Mine:
I had high hopes for this book. I mean, the title is freaking amazing, and, being a bit of a geek myself, I’m a major sucker for geek protagonists. Represent!

So, was it amazing? Only kinda. The book takes awhile to get going. I wasn’t really invested in the plot or the characters until about halfway through the book, but it really picks up form there. It does read like a first novel, but not a bad first novel.

I really loved that the author is completely unapologetic about the geeky references. They’re everywhere, and, with few exceptions, they’re not explained. Geek readers will get it, and that’s what matters. But, if you don’t get it, it’s not hugely distracting. Ultimately it doesn’t really matter if you get the references, or if you’re from Fanboy’s world, because what’s really important is their significance to him. Geeks will enjoy this book more than anyone else, but even if you haven’t picked up a comic book since you were 10, it’s still an enjoyable story (though seriously, there are some great graphic novels out there; go read some!).

I sort of had a problem with the two main characters. They weren’t clichés, but they were pretty much exactly what you would imagine from their clichés, given a little development. There weren’t really any surprises.

The book does a good job of addressing some misconceptions about comic books and comic book culture, and is a really accurate representation of the geek world. However, it does feel a bit preachy at times.

Design:
The cover seems pretty cool to me, it looks just retro-comic enough for the story. Overall, though, I think they really missed out on the opportunity to make this an illustrated novel. It could have been so cool with some spot, journal-like illustrations, or even sample pages of Fanboy’s graphic novel. Or even just some of his sketches. A lot of wasted potential there.

The interior also isn’t anything special, which is fine; but again, they could have done so much more.

Final Rating:
3/5. Not bad for a first novel. I might give the author another try, if his later books spark my interest.

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About Lucy

If you want to get fancy, Lucy lives in Portland, OR, and has a MA in Writing/Book Publishing, with a focus on Young Adult Literature, and a heaping disregard for literary snobbishness (she was an English Major–she’s seen and spouted her fair share). She works as a social media marketer, and has dabbled in developmental editing as a freelancer.
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