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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Teens Read Too, 1 Nov 2006
TeensReadToo "Eat. Drink. Read. Be Merrier." (All Over the US & Canada) - See all my reviews
Barry Lyga explodes into the teen literature world with his unique debut novel. THE ASTONISHING ADVENTURES OF FANBOY AND GOTH GIRL is a novel about one young man's journey through confidence development.

Fanboy, a sophomore in high school, floats through life hoping to remain invisible since he has, more than once, fallen victim to bullies. His life is a lonely life. His parents have been divorced for six years; his mother is remarried and pregnant, visits with his father are becoming less frequent due to his father's increased social life, and he doesn't relate to his stepfather at all.

Fanboy has been compiling a list for quite some time. The list includes people that have "pissed him off" for no particular reason. Once you are on the list, you never get off. This includes the jock jerks and girls from the cliques that seem to dismiss him as if he has no business even attending school with them.

One bright spot in Fanboy's day is visiting with his friend Cal. Cal is a jock jerk, but also has a passion for comic books, and the two often debate, in depth, about different issues in the comic book universe. The problem with being friends with Cal is, since he is a jock jerk, he doesn't act like much of a friend at school. Fanboy knows to back off when Cal's teammates approach them at school. Most of their conversations take place on the weekends or at night through instant messages.

Fanboy's life begins to change when he receives an instant message from an unknown person. Fearing it is another trick to humiliate him, he doesn't respond. After several messages and an email, he learns that it is a girl from his gym class. Kyra has been witnessing his torment the entire year. She has taken pictures of a bully hitting him in the arm while the teachers do nothing. After this initial contact through instant messaging, they agree to meet and Fanboy's life will never be the same.

The biggest secret in Fanboy's life, which he hasn't even shared with Cal, is the graphic novel he is creating. Schemata takes up all of his free time and he can't stop himself from sharing it with Kyra. She becomes a huge supporter and inspiration for the graphic novel. Fanboy is planning to attend a comic book convention where Michael Bendis himself is going to be signing autographs. Fanboy intends to show Bendis his work and truly believes it will be the break he needs to get Schemata published. Surprising and disastrous events at the convention lead Fanboy to worry about Kyra's well-being. While things don't work out exactly as he plans, Fanboy realizes confidence is the key to his problems. After many uncharacteristic behaviors, he manages to come to terms with some of the issues in his life and makes plans for the future. He even takes

someone off "the list."

THE ASTONISHING ADVENTURES OF FANBOY AND GOTH GIRL will be enjoyed by readers who enjoy teenage problem novels. Comic book fans will enjoy the graphic novel references, especially the cameo appearance by Michael Bendis. While the ending left me slightly unsatisfied, it didn't take away from my overall enjoyment of this novel. This will be a great addition to any collection.

Reviewed by: Karin Perry
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Geek and Freak, 6 Oct 2006
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
This is the second novel I've read in the last several months in which the protagonist is a precociously clever young teenage boy whose main outlet is the secret creation of a comic book/graphic novel. Evan Kuhlman's "Wolf Boy" is an excellent --sometimes painful, sometimes funny -- portrait of a 13-year-old whose big brother has died and whose parents are drifting apart. Here, the titular "Fanboy" is a 15-year-old whose parents are already divorced and has exactly one friend. He's kind of a classic sophomore smart geek loner -- the kind one could well imagine going TCM on everyone if he weren't too smart for that (although he does fantasize about just such a scenario and keeps a list of people he's like to see dead).

Fanboy's into superhero comics and his schoolwork, hates the school jocks (although his one friend is a lacrosse player), and pines for the school beauties. At home, he resents his pregnant mother and tries his best to ignore his "step-fascist", hiding out in his basement room as much as possible, devoting endless hours to his secret project. His fairly miserable balance is upset when a reckless classmate (aka "Goth Girl"), semi-befriends him. This leads to great confusion for him, as he struggles to say the right thing to the ultra-sarcastic, whip-smart, defensive girl, who challenges his notions about how to get through high-school. Lurking in the background to all this is an impending comic book convention where Fanboy plans to show his masterwork to Brian Michael Bendis (a prominent real-life comic creator). This meeting, he assumes, will be the catalyst for his rise to fame as a creative genius and will herald end his current misanthropic lifestyle.

The story is narrated entirely from Fanboy's snide and often whiny perspective, and so I found myself waiting for the other shoe to drop. His dislike of pretty much everyone is so knee-jerk that the reader can't help but assume that at least some of his characterizations are teenage exaggerations and that things are a little more complex than he makes them out to be. So it comes as little surprise that the "step-facist", school jocks, and teen beauty queen all surprise him in various ways over the course of the story. Indeed, it's hard not to come away at the end of the book thinking that if Fanboy was just a little less close minded, he wouldn't be so miserable -- which is perhaps the point. Thus, Fanboy is an exercise in frustration for the adult reader because while he has legitimate issues (like his uprooting to this new neighborhood six years ago and some very real pummeling in gym class), his approach to them is often so immature that one has a hard time sympathizing.

I also had a hard time believing his "lonerness". In a high school of several thousand, it's hard to believe Fanboy wouldn't have fallen in with a few other geeks (and/or freaks) by now. His portrayal of the school is a population of 90% anonymous kids, 9.9% Neanderthal jocks, and himself, plus Goth Girl, who comes out of nowhere. Perhaps the point is that even if those people were there, he is incapable of connecting with them -- however, this seems like a rather exteme stretch given his friendship with the jock comicbook guy. This is a fairly minor quibble however, as the book is nicely paced and fairly entertaining for the most part. It should be noted that those not into comics may find themselves somewhat less interested in Fanboy's "adventures", especially as the genre is at the center of a number of conversations and plot points throughout the book. At a minimum, one should be aware of the difference between superhero and non-superhero (Daniel Clowes, Adrian Tomine, et al) comics genres. Ultimately, it's an effective story about self-esteem that should appeal to teenagers who like to read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome story, 29 May 2012
Steven R. McEvoy "MCWPP" (Canada) - See all my reviews
This book was the first novel published by Barry Lyga and it is the first of four in the Brookdale High series, which I just happened to read in reverse order. The strength of Lyga's writing is evident from this first novel and gets better with every book he writes. Lyga has an incredible gift as a storyteller. He captures life in and around high school in this series in a wonderful way. His stories are about real people with real problems and real life. Each of his books has something the reader can take away and it will help them be better at being. But I think the greatest testament to Lyga's craft as a writer is that even though I just finished this book, I am already planning to reread it.

Brookdale High or South Brook High is an interesting school. Not the worst school and not the best. There are cliques, and jocks, and geeks - all the usual groups you would find in and around a high school. And like most high schools, some of them get it and some do not. For Kyra Sellers and Fanboy (aka Donnie) it is just putting in time. Both want to be somewhere else. Both need things to change. Kyra witnesses Fanboy being punched repeatedly in gym class and wonders why he allows it to happen. Soon they have a strange friendship developing. They both have a love of Graphic Novels but prefer different styles. Fanboy is working on one and Goth Girl wants to help make it better. But as we all know, life in high school or life in general is usually not easy and things often go wrong or at least not the way we expect, and in this story that is definitely the case.

There are a number of strengths that make this novel so good. First, there are the characters. Readers cannot help but become fans of Kyra and Fanboy; they are so well written and capture much of the spirit of being an outsider in high school you can't help but root for them. Second is the story itself. It has a sinister darkness to it, but at the same time provides some hope. It is not a fast-paced novel but it will definitely keep your attention and interest turning the pages. Third is the essence of both high school and life that Lyga has managed to capture. This was an amazing novel to read and after reading it I now plan to go back and reread the whole series!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sheer Genius!, 5 Feb 2010
BeatleBangs1964 (United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl (Paperback)
"I'm telling you, my friend, that I'll get you, I'll get you in the end, yes I will, I'll get you, oh yeah..." -- Beatles, 1963

Donnie, aka "Fanboy" is 15 and trying to survive the tough social life at South Brook High in Maryland. He has challenges on the home front as well with his stepfather Tony, whom he calls "Step-fascist" and a baby sister on the way (half-sister, as he reminds them). Fanboy keeps a List of people he'd like to see taken out. These are the "Jock Jerks" and everybody else who has ever bullied and hounded him. A comic/graphic novel and computer expert, Fanboy's big dream is to have his graphic novel, brilliantly titled "Schemata" join the pantheon of famous illustrated characters and be reviewed by his idol, Brian Michael Bendis (Bendis).

Fanboy has one good friend, a lacrosse player named Cal. Cal is smart, funny and shares Fanboy's love for comics. Fanboy feels let down when Cal cannot attend a comic convention with him as he has a lacrosse game ("the playoffs," as Cal tried to explain to Fanboy were just as important to him and because he made a commitment to the team, he feels he has to honor that).

Fanboy has a very unusual security blanket. He has a lone bullet, filched from his stepfather's supply that he carries in his pocket. When he is at home, he stores it in his computer. For him, just knowing that he has it has a palliative effect.

Gym is Fanboy's personal hell. A Neanderthal-like boy named Mitchell Frampton uses Fanboy as his own personal punching bag and target during dodgeball. Their coach and gym teacher stand aside and do nothing to protect Fanboy from his nemesis' daily torture. A girl, dressed all in black with a spiky haircut photographs the Neanderthal making pulverized steak out of Fanboy and from there, a friendship of sorts blossoms.

The girl, Kyra Sellers (whom readers will get to know even better in "Goth Girl Rising") is a very interesting and complex character. She insists that Fanboy stand up for himself; she worms her way into his confidence and even critiques his magnum opus, Schemata. It is Kyra who bestows the nickname of Fanboy on Donnie.

Kyra encourages Fanboy to explore beyond the boundaries of his creative genius; she draws Fanboy into her chaotic life of danger and intrigue.

Indeed, Kyra's influence is so prevalent that Fanboy takes a personal interest in her welfare. He even helps save her from being arrested after she acted a fool at the comic/graphic novel convention by making a spectacle of herself. Her public scene was done on Fanboy's behalf, her misguided effort to defend him from what she saw as an outright rejection by Bendis.

An excellent, cutting edge book. Kyra makes one think of the John Lennon with the Beatles' classic, "I'll Get You in the End" as she will bulldoze her way over anything and anybody who crosses her.

Barry Lyga is a genius. His novels and cast of characters are cutting edge, diamond-sharp and precise. It is almost as if he has drafting skills in the precision and life he gives his characters and stories. He, like Chris Crutcher deals head on with some very serious topics in an intelligent and plausible way. Be sure to read his other works. The man is brilliant!
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Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl
Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga (Paperback - 1 July 2008)
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