Monday, February 7, 2011

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga; Before I Die by Jenny Downham

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth GirlThe Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga (Houghton Mifflin) was not at all what I thought it would be about; I imagined something along the lines of Nick and Nora--and it was, sort of, but it wasn't, sort of.

Donnie, aka Fanboy, is an outsider at school; only his friend, Cal, gets his love of comic books/graphic novels, and a lot of the time, Cal is busy being a popular jock. (Of interest: Cal is black. I kinda wished this had been Cal's story of juggling his nerd and jock identities.) One day, Donnie is approached by Goth Girl--Kyra--and she prompts him to not give up on his dream of going to a local convention, showing off part of Schemata, his first great graphic novel opus, and Getting Discovered.

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl isn't a romance. Rather, it's a relationships story: Donnie wants more from his relationships with his mom, stepdad, Cal, and--to an extent--Kyra. It's also about a) being a nerd, a geek, whatever term you like, and self-identifying as one, b) being bullied, and how all of the school programs in the world don't teach people how not to bully or be bulled, and how it's difficult to deal with in school settings (I am cynical about human nature, but that's a post all its own), c) learning to be an equal in relationships, and d) creating. I found Donnie to be one of the most sympathetic of the "I'm a guy AND I'm a jerk sometimes but I'll grow up" characters I've read, too.

Before I Die

I read about half of Before I Die by Jenny Downham (Random House - David Fickling Books) and skimmed the ending. Tessa is young and dying of cancer; before she goes, she's got a bucket list of things she wants to do, including drugs, sex, crime, and saying yes to everything for a day. I thought the saying yes part of the list was interesting for how Tessa navigated it, particularly because of her younger brother's involvement, but the Tessa of the beginning didn't capture my heart enough to hold me for the whole book. I liked what I read of the ending, which sounded real and raw; I am always reminded, when I read about the "death rattle," how it's impossible to describe unless you've heard it for yourself. I remember that there was a run of books narrating by dying protagonists when I was a teenager, and I read some of them, but I suppose that I'm just not up for these sorts of books right now; instead, I have to save up all that thinkspace for coming to terms with the deaths of people I know.

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