December 04, 2006

Black Lipstick & Comic Books

This book is a 2006 Cybil Award Nominee for YA Fiction.

It's not that Don doesn't realize that life is worse than usual this year -- he does. He's so bored in classes he's just doing the routine in his sleep. Freshman year, he convinced an entire history section that there were turtles involved in the Great Depression. Seriously.
It sucks to be smarter than your history teacher.

At home, Don just slinks down to his basement room to stay the heck out of the way. See, his mom and the stepfacist have managed to -- horrors -- breed, and there's a Half Alien on the way. His Mom's always trying to get him to touch her belly or "discuss" how life is going to be once the half-thing arrives. Ugh. Don knows he's kind of seen as a geek by his stepfacist, who probably didn't even finish high school, and by the abundance of jockheads at school; he's basically invisible to his dad, whom he only sees in the summertime, but that's okay -- Don's content to fly beneath the radar, because he's got bigger things cooking. See, there's a comic book convention coming, and he's going to show his new graphic novel off to his favorite comic author Brian Michael Bendis -- soon. The graphic novel is his whole life, and he's been working on it -- hard. He knows something life-changing will come of it --

If he can make it that far. School sucks, in the meantime. Donnie's best friend -- his only friend -- is Cal, a jock who's on lacrosse and on the wrestling team. He loves comic books and graphic novels, too, and though they share much, Don doesn't really believe that they're true friends -- not the lasting type. Being a popular jock is going to come first someday, Don knows it will, so he prepares himself by building walls. Don carries insurance in his pocket -- he knows if it all goes wrong, he's got an out. Besides, it's no big deal that he blows off Cal's lacrosse games. If he can convince himself that Cal's going to blow it someday, maybe it won't be so hard when he does.

But while Don's getting beaten up during PE and trying to find the silver lining in pining his hopes on his graphic novel, he realizes somebody is watching -- somebody notices. It's this Goth girl named Kyra. She intrigues him. She contacts him. And suddenly, the isolation that Don's been living in doesn't seem to make as much sense. Kyra -- or Goth Girl, as he thinks of her, reminds him that other people love comics and cynicism. There is a world beyond high school that allows for dreams to be attained, people to become attached to, and life to be lived. Fanboy, as Kyra calls him, realizes that if he gives the world just half a chance, good things can happen. He can roll off in a semi-happy ending, of sorts, just like the people in his graphic novel. Sort of. Maybe.

But he's still just a fifteen year old comic book geek. How can he help Kyra understand all this?

A painfully funny, true-voiced novel for those of us geeky geniuses in high school who don't fit the mainstream mold, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl comes highly recommended. Also this novel comes with a fresh new angle on YA lit -- a vidlit video -- which dramatizes some of the greatness of the novel -- but only SOME of it. Sure, watch the vid, but you'll want to read the novel for yourself.

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