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The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga

One of the best parts of the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas... yes, I know I'm seriously behind and that it's almost February) is that some of my best friends from high school come home to visit their parents, so a bunch of us get together, go out to dinner, have coffee, and more or less have a mini-reunion. This year, over dinner, we got to discussing our ten year reunion, and I scared everybody by pointing out that it's only five years away!*

So, in honor of the five year reunion that we're not actually going to have, I want to take this moment to thank my fellow PAHS alumni (class of '02!) for making high school a fun (and safe) place to learn. Thank you for not humiliating me, bullying me, or torturing me, and for making it hard to me to believe that such things could actually take place in any high school.

Fanboy's high school experience, on the other hand, not so good. From the boy in his P.E. class who punches him repeatedly, to his "best friend" who only hangs out with him when his other friends aren't around, Fanboy finds himself repeatedly abused by his peers. His teachers are no better. The gym teachers stand idly by while he is bullied and his history teacher knows so little about the subject matter that she actually believes a story that he makes up off the top of his head in class.

As an outlet, Fanboy inhales comics and graphic novels -- and even starts working on his own. (Drawing everything on his computer with his mouse!!! I seriously wanted to call the poor boy and offer him the use of my graphics tablet -- I mean, he was DRAWING COMICS WITH A MOUSE!!). One day, he receives a mysterious e-mail asking him why he allows himself to be bullied in gym class. Eventually finds out that the e-mail is from Kyra -- also known as Goth Girl, and they begin an unusual friendship.

There's a lot going on in this novel -- and I hate writing plot summary (oh wow, my high school English teachers really did brain-wash me.... it was drilled into our heads... "don't write plot summary. write analysis. don't write plot summary". Suddenly, it all makes so much sense!). But what I really liked about the novel was how so much of the abuse was actually in Fanboy's head.

So many novels like this have a teenage protagonist who is picked on at school, and then somehow everything gets better, but for Fanboy, a lot of what he sees as abuse is simply that his classmates don't know him -- and haven't bothered to get to know him. (But he's so stuck in his little "everybody hates me" mindset, that he has never tried to get to know them either). And he realizes this when he actually goes to a party and finds out that he's famous for the story he made up in history class. This, to me, seemed very true to life (One of my best friends is convinced that I hated him in middle school, when really, I think I only had one class with him in 6th grade, so I didn't get to know him until we had classes together in high school.)

Okay, I think it's time for me to stop reminiscing about high school.

*Senior year of high school, a couple of my friends were really bored in English class and started drawing a picture of what everyone would look like at our ten year reunion. For example, one couple who had been dating forever was drawn as Siamese twins with the caption "They got the operation, now they really are 'joined at the hip'. For some reason, they drew me sitting in a corner with a stack of books up to my head on either side of me. How did they know?


Jen Robinson said...

Oh, you make me feel old, Sara. But you know, I think that high school angst of some sort is a near universal memory, and that this book will resonate with a lot of people. I liked it!

Sara said...

Yes, Jen, you're probably right about everyone remembering some high school angst -- hopefully this book will find its way into the hands of today's high schoolers.

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