The Astonishing Adventures of Fan Boy and Goth Girl are about Fan Boy and Goth Girl, but they’re not actually that astonishing. Rather, how un-astonishing they are, that they reflect an exaggerated reality in a sense without being ridiculous, is what’s great about them. The first is the story of Fan Boy being a standard nerdy teen. He’s super smart and very focused on being successful, which leads to him looking down on everyone to some degree. But he’s bullied constantly, only has one friend that’s also friends with his bullies (or the jocks as he likes to call them), and also has to deal with the fact that his mother remarried someone he strongly dislikes (he nicknames him ‘the fascist’), and may soon have a new step sibling. And of course as his nickname suggests, he loves comics, especially those by Bendis to the point he is even working on a comic called Schemata that he wishes to show him. He eventually meets Kyra AKA Goth Girl, a girl who similarly to him is very different from the rest of her peers, and they end up becoming friends in a way. But she’s also somewhat the opposite of him, as she does her best to stand out in ways that make people stay away from her in order to get them to leave her alone. After a series of events including Bendis refusing to look at his comic, they grow both closer in a sense, but Kyra also begins to hate him. Fan Boy fearing for her safety due to believing that she may harm her self ends up calling her father, which results in her father confronting her, and seems to cement her hatred for fanboy, at least for a time.
The first book really hit home for me in that I could sympathize with Fan Boy tremendously. I really enjoyed essentially everything about his character. The rebellious attitude that involved actively trying to hate things. The logical intelligence. The extreme unjustified panic anyway. The witty and sarcastic tone. The understanding that the world isn’t fair. The being terrible with girls. The overconfidence. The sense of superiority in order to retain sanity. The ignoring of rules in order to do what has to be done but making sure not to get in trouble. The being knocked down but coming back up. And of course the fanboying.
There were two things that seemed to be representative of Fan Boys problems in life. One was a bullet that he had swiped a long time ago from his step dad, that he used as a sort of charm that he held to give himself comfort. By the end of the book, he realizes he doesn’t need it anymore, and doesn’t even notice that Kyra had stolen it. The other is ‘The List’, a list of people that had greatly wronged him that he vows never to forget when he achieves his revenge for all the pain he’s had inflicted on him so far by becoming incredibly successful. It used to be a rule that he didn’t take names off, as being permanent was the entire point, but when he puts Bendis’s name on it after being ignored, he relents for the first time and takes it off. Each of these represents a major changes to his personality: The first is that he no longer feels the need to hide from the world and take comfort in inanimate objects in order to survive. He’s far more comfortable in his own skin. The second is that he no longer has an irrational hatred of most of the world. The List very much represented him hating the entire world, as it involved him being completely unwilling to forgive any slight. To go back on that was a significant breakthrough in his ability to develop relationships with others. Through meeting Kyra and becoming close to her and her violent but insightful self, he grows considerably as a person. The first book ends with him in a significantly better place than he started, and is a solid ending when it comes to character growth in that sense. However, its a completely hollow ending in terms of the relationship between Fan Boy and Kyra.
Hence the second book was absolutely needed as the first doesn’t provide closure in that regard. It’s surprising that the second book wasn’t originally planned, because it was so desperately needed to fill in these holes. The second novel switches perspectives and is not from Kyra’s perspective, who has a completely different set of problems. In the beginning she gets sent to get psychological help due to to Fan Boy calling her dad. Several months later, she comes back and is willing to forgive Fan Boy and make up with him. But upon arriving she realizes that he’s much better off than he was before she left. He’s published Schemata in the school journal, which infuriates her as it used to be something he only shared with her, and that she thought had bigger aspirations than a school journal, but also because it results in him actually becoming somewhat popular. She vows that she’d completely destroy him to get revenge, and even puts in a good amount of effort, but really, it never goes anywhere. The majority of the story, is about the problems that she’s had that made her who she is. Her mothers death, and her guilt associated with it. Her relationship with her father being horrible. Her friends being, in my opinion, pretty horrible people. Ultimately, she gets over these problems and begins taking steps to be a better person, leading to closure on her growth, as well as not just making up with Fan Boy, but being at a different level with him and walking on a new road along side him, which brings it to a solid end from the romantic point of view as well.
Ultimately, the biggest issue for me was social dynamics were really bizarre to me. I never experienced fanboy’s really, but could sympathize as we ultimately have the same general personality type. Kyra was totally out there though. It was more painful than anything honestly, but gripping in a way you can’t put down. It did seem self destructive. All of it despite her claims to the contrary. The cancer things. Her dad. Her mom. The poetry. Her dad being clueless. Her accidental hurting of her dad. All pained and bitter. Fanboy’s was more optimistic. I know a guy wrote this, and it isn’t the best look into the female mind, but every girl in this was completely impossible for me to understand at all. Kyra I still sympathized with, but Jecca and Simone I wanted someone to smack. Despite it being something that I can’t relate to at all, it was still pretty powerful however.
The positives related to fanboy were the oasis in the desert of despair so to speak. I enjoyed seeing that fanboy had grown, and especially that he didn’t abandon Kyra and actually turned out to be reliable. I really wish we could see the world from fanboy’s perspective, even for just a little bit.
The two books overall are very different, but both are pretty good in their own way I suppose. I definitely enjoyed the first more but I can still appreciate a lot of the second.