"Recovering comic book geek" Barry Lyga has written an arresting first novel about a high school boy strapped with daunting adolescent problems. Observant loner Fanboy must cope with his parents' divorce, the advent of Step-Fascist, and the imminent, quite unwelcome arrival of a new sibling. On top of that, old friends are slipping into the black hole of popularity and Fanboy's new friend, Goth Girl, is a raging cynic. This teen novel will appeal to mature, hip readers.
Life is pretty dismal for the geeky 15-year-old narrator of Lyga's debut novel, who will quickly win over readers. He is mostly ignored by his beer-guzzling, gun-toting stepfather (aka "step-fascist") and pregnant mother (who still calls him Donnie), and harassed at school. His only friend, Cal, ignores him whenever the popular guys come around. Then a goth girl named Kyra sends him a surprise email, and he finds someone to talk to about everything from comics to their disdain for their classmates ("Someone could walk through the halls with a machine gun and kill ninety-nine percent of the people in that place and I wouldn't care," Kyra says). He even shows her the graphic novel he is hoping to publish so he can "get away from here. Start new somewhere else." But while Kyra is always blunt and angry, "fanboy" (as she calls him) begins slowly to piece together just how troubled she is. The story unfolds slowly, and a few resolutions seem scripted, such as the narrator making sudden peace with the step-fascist. But fanboy's comic book obsession feels authentic, in the way he describes famous authors, the difficulty of creating a comic ("You have to decide if the words are important enough to cover up the artwork that's telling half the story"), and even life inside a comic-book convention. His relationship with Kyra seems real, too; they are both truly outsiders, full of confusion and pain ("I don't know how I got here," he says during their big fight. "I don't think she knows, either"). In the end, there is plenty here to keep readers engaged. Ages 14-up. (Oct.) Agent: Kathleen Anderson, Anderson Literary Management. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
KLIATT - Paula Rohrlick
It's hard to be a small, smart, geeky 15-year-old in a rural high school, and Don is bullied mercilessly. He carries a bullet in his pocket and dreams of escape, taking refuge in his love of comics and the graphic novel he's creating. He does his best to ignore his pregnant mother and her husband, the "step-fascist." Then he meets Goth girl Kyra, who smokes, drinks, drives too fast, and hates just about everyone, but she encourages Don to stand up for himself, and he learns to change his approach to the world. He cleverly teaches the boy who's been pummeling him a lesson, kisses the hot girl he's been lusting after, goes after his dream, and helps Kyra when she's in trouble. Dark at times yet often wryly funny, this is a penetrating and convincing look inside high school life.
VOYA - Geri Diorio
Fanboy is having a bad year. He is a smart, introverted high school sophomore who is deeply into comics. At school, he gets picked on by bullies and jocks but retreats into his art-he is creating a graphic novel. His only friend has begun pulling away from him, and his relationship with his mother and stepfather (whom he calls the stepfascist) is strained more than usual since his mom has gotten pregnant. He meets Goth Girl at school, and their shared love of comics and mutual hatred of jocks causes them to bond. Although having another friend is good on one hand, it is bad on another: Goth Girl is a troubled young lady with a very dark side. This engaging first novel has good characterization with genuine voices-one can hear real teens in the dialogue. There is some odd plotting and some trouble with the pacing-Fanboy gets a migraine out of the blue and it goes away as soon as it has served its plot purpose-but the book is compulsively readable. Be warned that the ending is left open. Readers will wonder what will happen to Goth Girl. There is a positive feeling, but no solid resolutions-rather like life. The book captures the joys, the troubles, and the aloneness that one can and often does feel as an adolescent. Teens will gobble it up and wait eagerly for Lyga's next title.
VOYA - Lucy Freeman
The plot contains the old has-been idea of a geek being picked on by seemingly athletic superiors, yet it takes on an amazingly fascinating and fresh vibe. Throughout the beginning and middle, the story is interesting and keeps the reader turning pages, but it is nothing compared to the slam-dunking, eye-opening, tear-jerking ending. A triumphant finale leaves readers wanting to read the novel again and again. It will be a sure hit among YA readers.
Children's Literature - Amie Rose Rotruck
Fanboy's life consists of being abused in gym class every day, tortured by the very sight of a gorgeous girl named Dina, fighting with his mother and the stepfacist--stepfather, and working on a graphic novel that he hopes to show his idol, Brian Michael Bendis. Fanboy's only friend is Cal, who shares Fanboy's interest in comics and graphic novels but is also a jock. The only thing that keeps Fanboy sane is a bullet that he carries with him every day. One day Fanboy is e-mailed a picture of him being hit in gym class by "Promethea387" and asking "Why do you let them hit you?" This leads Fanboy to meeting Kyra, otherwise known as Goth Girl. The two of them begin a rather intense on-and-off friendship colored by their own issues and their feelings towards each other. Barry Lyga perfectly captures teen angst and ironic humor in this gritty portrayal of the life of a teenage geek. Fanboy's voice manages to be truly original and, at the same time, speaks to everyone who ever felt like a geek, even for a moment.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-On good days, Fanboy is invisible to the students at his high school. On bad ones, he's a target for bullying and violence. When a classmate is cruel to him, Fanboy adds him to "The List" and moves on. His only real friend, Cal, is a jock who can't be seen with him in public. Their love of comics, though, keeps them close friends outside of school. Reading comics and writing his own graphic novel, Schemata, are the only things that keep him sane. He dreams of showing his work to a famous author at a comic-book convention and being discovered as the next great graphic novelist. When Goth Girl Kyra IMs him with photos of him being beaten up, he's skeptical. Why does she care what happens to him? He learns, though, that she's as much an outsider as he is. The two form a tentative friendship based on hatred of their classmates, particularly jocks, and her interest in Schemata. Fanboy is a rule follower, but Kyra is a rebel with a foul mouth. She teaches him to stand up for himself, and gives him the confidence to do it. Lyga looks at how teens are pushed to their limits by society. Though he toys with such concepts as teen suicide and Columbine-like violence, the novel never turns tragic. His love of comics carries over into all three teen characters, breathing animation into a potentially sad but often funny story. This is a great bridge book for teens who already like graphic novels.-Stephanie L. Petruso, Anne Arundel County Public Library, Odenton, MD Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Lyga has crafted credible protagonists in his first work of fiction about two misfit teens who forge a friendship. Donnie (aka Fanboy) is a comic-book aficionado, who lives with his newly remarried, pregnant mother and his "step-fascist." Rule-abiding and honest, Fanboy's goal in life is to meet writer and illustrator Brian Michael Bendis, to show him his own graphic novel. Unfortunately, Fanboy is tormented at school and has fantasies about school massacres; he finds comfort in his talisman, a single bullet. Enter Kyra (aka Goth Girl), who is confused and frustrated with Fanboy as she observes him refusing to stand up for himself. She reaches out to him, and the two quickly establish an uneasy albeit powerful relationship based on their mutual disdain for most of their peers and their love of comics. Although it seems likely that Goth Girl's recklessness and cynicism will have a detrimental effect on Fanboy, he begins to see her as vulnerable, and helping her gives him new purpose. Because it's authentic and well-written, teen readers will appreciate the complexities of these unique characters, and root for them to triumph. (Fiction. YA)$100,000 ad/promo
From the Publisher
"...Fanboy's whip-smart, often hilariously sarcastic voice...adds fresh, urgent perspective to age-old questions about how young people cope with...being misunderstood as they try to discover themselves." Booklist, ALA, Boxed Review
Lyga looks at how teens are pushed to their limits by society...His love of comics carries over into all three teen characters, breathing animation into a potentially sad but often funny story. This is a great bridge book for teens who already like graphic novels.
School Library Journal, Starred
Plenty here to keep readers engaged.
So cool that you might want to wrap it in black fabric and have it delivered anonymously to your teenager…What a find.
Read an Excerpt
FANBOY - Chapter ONE
I want to not ride the bus to school every day, but that would be a waste of a really big want—it’ll take care of itself eventually. Until then, I put up with it, like today.
So what do I want? I want a copy of Giant-Size X-Men #1 in Mint condition.
I would settle for Near Mint, I guess, which would definitely be cheaper, but I’d really like to be able to say that my copy is pretty much perfect. On eBay, a Mint copy starts at at least eight hundred bucks, which is way more than I can afford, but maybe once I get my driver’s license, I can get a job after school and put together the money. Sounds crazy, I know— some ancient comic book from the 1970s. But it’s important.
I also want a new computer. Multiprocessor, maxed-out memory slots, wireless everything . . . When my parents got divorced, my mom got custody of me, and I got custody of the old Pentium clone that used to sit in the den at our old house. Thanks to the very best in Microsoft/Intel engineering, it crashes every time you exhale too hard in its general vicinity. It’s tough to accomplish the kinds of things I want to accomplish with that going on. I want Flash animation! Video editing! Heck, I just want to be able to use Photoshop or Illustrator for ten minutes without rebooting.
Thinking about a pristine Giant-Size X-Men #1 and a humming new computer usually gets me through the bus ride to school. Today’s an exception. Today, I don’t need to spin fantasies because a living, breathing fantasy has just gotten on board: Dina Jurgens, who manages to make climbing the steps to the bus look like something that crazy parents’ groups boycott.
It’s a good day when a goddess gets on the school bus with you. In my two years suffering as this particular school bus stutters over potholes and gravel, winding its way through the back roads of Brookdale, Dina has only ridden a handful of times.
She’s a senior, two years older than I am, but she looks like she could have stepped off a runway somewhere: blond hair, bright green eyes, soft and puffy lips, and a body that’s pure torture. There are plenty of hotties at South Brook High, but Dina’s a cut above and beyond. Of all the things I hate about South Brook, the fact that she’s graduating in a few months is at the top of the list. How am I supposed to go through junior and senior years without catching glimpses of her in the hall?
Dina checks out the seating situation, scanning the back seats, which are packed. The bus driver—a wheezing, leather-faced troll appropriately named Mr. Dull—closes the door and hits the gas, jerking Dina forward a little. She flips her hair out of her eyes, then rolls them at Mr. Dull’s temerity. She heads for the first empty seat, which happens to be, well, next to me.
I try to play it cool, but let’s be honest—that’s tough to do in the presence of a goddess. I go with my first instinct, which is to try to dip my hand into my pocket for the safety totem I keep there. I always feel calmer when I touch it.
But it’s awkward getting a hand into your pocket when you’re sitting down, doubly so when there’s someone right next to you. My elbow brushes her side, and she looks at me like I planned it. “Hey!” “Sorry,” I mumble. I feel like I should explain that I wasn’t trying to touch her, but she’s already looking away.
“What happened, Dina?” Sounds like Kayla Meyer. A junior, one who hasn’t gotten a car yet. One who apparently ranks as Worthy on the Dina Jurgens Scale because her older brother is Steve Meyer, who I think dated Dina’s older sister or something like that. I don’t know. I don’t really pay attention to stuff like that.
“My car wouldn’t start this morning.” “Bummer.” “Yeah, I told my dad that it has to be ready by the weekend because . . .” I tune it out and keep my head down so that no one will bother me. But being so close to Dina rattles me. I keep wanting to turn and stare, but even I know that that’s not cool. So I settle for cutting my eyes left as often as I can. I get flashes of skirt and leg and the shadow of what could be a breast, but I’m not sure and I don’t want to risk looking for longer than, like, a tenth of a second. So it’s sort of like dumping the pieces of a puzzle out on the floor, looking at them, and then trying to put it all together in your head. With your eyes closed. So close! So far!
It goes like that for a little while, the bus jerking and bouncing along, making Dina’s anatomy do very interesting things that she’s apparently unaware of (and of which I’m woefully underaware, given those quick glances). Dina talks with Kayla, the Usual Idiots yell and chatter, and Mr. Dull’s beloved country station blares out of the radio.
At somee point, I realize that I probably look like an idiot, my head bent down, doing nothing (apparently), staring down at my feet. I pretend to look for sooooomething in my backpack, but there’s just school stuff and comic books in there. And God knows I don’t want to pull out a comic book while Dina’s sitting next to me! I wish I had something—anything—else to read, something that didn’t scream “Geek!” at the top of its lungs and jump around in nerdly war paint. Like . . . I don’t know . . . Hot Rod?
When we screech to a tooth-grinding halt at the school, a sudden brilliant stroke hits me. Dina is sitting next to me. On the aisle. She’ll get up to leave and I’ll get up behind her. Behind her. From here to the exit, I’ll be right behind her, with an unobstructed view of The Back of Dina Jurgens. Not as splendid a sight as The Front, but not bad in its own right. Sweet.
So Dina gets up and I grab my backpack (watching her legs as I do so—wow), then get up and move to get behind her— And Mark Broderick pushes me back. “Move it.” He doesn’t even look at me as he does it. He’s a big senior with short bleached hair and a face like old hamburger. He dresses like Eminem, if Eminem weighed twenty pounds too much and couldn’t keep the sweat stains from spreading out under his armpits. This is the weirdest part—he smells like boiling leather. I’ve never been able to figure that part out.
Up until now, the only contact I’ve ever had with him was smelling that unique aroma as he walked past me on the bus. But right now I watch him as he struts up to the door behind Dina. A flood of bigger, meaner, and/or tougher kids fills the aisle, and I’m not about to step into that flood, so I just stand here and wait and watch Mark’s back and the buzzcut that clutches his scalp.
Now that I’m standing, it’s easy to slip my hand into my pocket. As usual, I feel immediate calm when I touch the bullet that I keep there. I started carrying it about a year ago.
Everything’s OK; I’ve added Mark to The List.
The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga. Copyright (c) 2006 by Barry Lyga. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.