Saturday, December 26, 2009

Book Review: Goth Girl Rising by Barry Lyga

Title: Goth Girl Rising (sequel to The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl)

Author: Barry Lyga

Pages: 390

Received from: author


Time is a funny thing in the hospital. In the mental ward. You lose track of it easily.

After six months in the Maryland Mental Health Unit, Kyra Sellers, a.k.a. Goth Girl, is going home.

Unfortunately, she’s about to find out that while she was away, she lost track of more than time.

Things seem normal at first. Roger’s his typical, pain-in-the-ass fatherly self. Jecca and Simone and the rest of the goth crowd still do their thing. And Kyra is back in black, feeling good, and ready to make up with the only person who’s ever appreciated her for who she really is.

But then she sees him. Fanboy. Transcended from everything he was into someone she barely recognizes.

And the anger and memories come rushing back.

Fanboy. The Spermling. Miss Powell. Roger.

Her mother.

There’s so much to do to people when you’re angry.

Kyra’s about to get very busy

Whatever flaws Lyga had in The Astonishing Adventures, he more then makes up for in this haunting sequel that you will literally not be able to tear your eyes away from until the last paragraph. We take up six months after the end of Adventures, this time in Kyra's POV as she fills in the gaps between she and Fanboy's tumultuous last encounter. Her father, Roger, sent her to a mental hospital for fear she would try to kill herself (again) and, now that she's out, she's ready to make amends with Fanboy and make her best attempt at civility with her father and teachers. But on her first day back at school, she not only discovers that Fanboy's graphic novel that she and him worked on before she was sent away as been serialized in the lame-ass school literary magazine, but that he has become Popular because of it. Added to the fact that he did not contact her once during the six months she was locked up, Kyra is one Angry Goth Girl. She, in a rage, plots Fanboy's demise, all at once dealing with the hidden memories of her dead mother, rocky relationship with her father, and mixed feelings for her friend Jecca. But life is never meant to be easy, is it?

Anyone doubting Lyga's ability as an writer will do a double take upon picking up Goth fact, it was like reading another author all together. Whatever Fanboy was, Goth Girl wasn't. Fanboy's narrative was filled with quirky, self-deprecating humor and comic references and just the general musings of an unpopular comic book geek who meets a strange girl one day. Kyra's narrative is...not. It's not quirky or self-deprecating. It's not really funny, and it's not at all fun. It's...sad.

Sad, cynical, painful, sporadic, heartbreaking...again, all the things Fanboy wasn't. I always said I would never utter this phrase, but...

it was an Emotional Roller coaster.


I can't even figure out where to begin explaining the complete and total Victory of this novel. Maybe the complete raw and open honesty of Kyra's narrative. Or perhaps the interludes of kind of free-verse poetry that all add up until we finally figure out why she's so opposed to the word "fuck". MAYBE it's the fact that Fanboy's "third thing" is never revealed but--praise the lord!--his name is? Or, most likely, it is the fact that this book is oozing with Sandman references--not just references, analazations. Comparisons. There are whole chapters consisting of Kyra writing letters to Neil Gaimen about her life. This in it's self is made of win, but the fact that Fanboy says--SAYS--that he concurs with my theory that the entire series was JUST A DREAM is astounding. Mr. Lyga, I am astounded.

It isn't even just references for the sake of references. They actually mean something. They both help and hurt Kyra as she spirals up and down through her fucked up life. In fact, her entire "Goth Girl" persona is entirely based off of Gaimen's Death.

Every word in Goth Girl Rising is both darkly captivating and essential to the plot. Every interaction and reaction she has to those around her all lead up to her eventual epiphany of sorts; her thoughts zig zag from incomparably pissed off to near-suicidal to debilitating confused and back to pissed off. You know how they say you feel things the strongest when your a teenager? Yeah, well, if there's any evidence of that, it would be Goth Girl Rising. Kyra could even be seen as an extreme case of Hormones Gone Wild, though I seriously doubt the humanity of anyone who would think such a thing after finishing the last chapter. I was literally sobbing, you guys. Sobbing. I was sitting in my living room at one in the morning watching a rerun of The Nanny and sobbing like a fucking baby.

The best part was that, despite her cynicism and craziness and often brattiness, I liked her. I liked her and, once more, I cared for her. I cared what happened to her and Roger and Fanboy and, even if I didn't, Lyga inserted enough tiny mysteries to keep me captivated nonetheless.

Goth Girl Rising was one of those rare finds that takes your breath away; there wasn't one instance where I felt like something was missing, or wished someone had said something different. Lyga has built a strong, troubled heroine that against all odds persuades the reader to root for her. I am definitely waiting for whatever this author has in store, and command of all ye reading this blog to go and pick it up wherever you can. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Also: Check out both the amazing Sandman series by Neil Gaimen as well as Lyga's first novel featuring Kyra, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl.


Apple said...

To be honest, Fanboy and Gothgirl was an even harder read for me (I had to put it down several times, to take a breather). I'm not entirely sure whether it's because I had an easier time relating to Fanboy, or just because I'm a "guy", but there you have it.

With Goth Girl Rising though, while I was able to finish it in a single sitting (several times by now), I found that my mood took a turn for the somber every time I did so.

Don't get me wrong, I wasn't being introspective or trying to be overly critical of the book. It's just that there was too much to deal with.

Goth Girl is one of those books that makes you think, and how you take that is entirely up to you. Some people will love the book (as did I), but others will find it too easy to relate to protagonist Kyra Sellers, and will undoubtedly struggle through the latter pages.

Nevertheless, it's one heck of a read.

Janea Cameron said...

i think that goth girl rising is amazing. i would read it many times over :)

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