I’m afraid those of you tuning in expecting MotherReader’s trademark wit are likely to be a tad disappointed today. Instead, you’ll just get a dose of her editor’s notorious long-windedness: MR’s taking the weekend off, but asked me to say a few words about The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, by Barry Lyga.
I don’t know why she would think I’d be well suited to offer up my opinions here. I mean, Donnie, the titular “Fanboy,” is an obsessive comic-book fan and aspiring artist who’s read every superhero comic under the sun, dreams of owning a mint-condition copy of Giant-Size X-Men #1, and worships at the altar of the likes of Alan Moore and Brian Michael Bendis, whereas I...
Okay, point taken.
Fifteen-year-old Fanboy is a veritable social outcast, a loner who spends his days just trying to stay under the radar and avoid the antagonism of the ever-present high school bullies. But all the while, he harbors hidden dreams of getting even with his tormentors (he even keeps a mental “list” of those due for comeuppance) and lovingly crafts his own comic excuse me, graphic novel in the hopes of escaping his dreary existence. But his perspective changes when he meets the openly rebellious Kyra, or “Goth Girl,” with whom he shares a feeling of societal isolation, but who may be seeking a more active form of self-expression.
At times, I feared the book would venture too far into exaggerated farce (something all too easy to do in the comic-fan arena) or darker-toned violence. Not that exploring the extremes of teenage ostracism is an unworthy undertaking in the post-Columbine era, but as I was drawn into Donnie’s world, I felt that twisting the story to that degree would have been no more than a cheap stunt. But my fears were largely unfounded; Lyga finds a truly plausible balance between humor and credibility in terms of Fanboy’s obsession, and between harmless fantasy and destructive reaction to teen angst. The book is not toothless it does come very close to that line but never alienates the reader from its protagonist.
The book is obviously targeted toward a YA audience, but I actually believe it holds greater value for the adult reader. While I could wholeheartedly empathize with Donnie’s plight who doesn’t remember feeling marginalized as a teenager? I could bring an adult’s experience to the table. I could travel along with his thoughts and dreams, but also see where his naiveté would run headlong into the harsh wall of reality, even while he remained blissfully ignorant. It made his failures all the more poignant. And his successes...? Well, let’s just say there’s still enough of the teenage fanboy in me to take unabashed satisfaction in those as well.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I just picked up a copy of Bendis’s latest Ultimate Spider-Man, so while I go read, I’ll return you to your regularly scheduled programming.