The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl Book Poster Image
Comic book geek learns to deal with high school.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

May be a good choice for comic book fans and graphic novel readers. Could be used by inspired parents and teachers to open up discussions on empathy, bullying, and school violence.

Positive Messages

There's a message here about the impact of bullying and what it's like to be an outsider. Teens will also see how caring about another person can change you and help you grow.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Both of the main characters, at different times, are outsiders -- and anyone who has felt on the fringe of high school will likely be able to relate. These characters don't act perfectly -- both threaten a school administrator with false sexual accusations, Fanboy has violent fantasies, and Kyra drives dangerously without a license and cuts classes -- but their pain in palpable and real.


Fanboy is bullied, punched, and kicked in the crotch. He fantasizes about his tormentors being killed. Kyra has attempted suicide in the past, and Fanboy fears she will try again.


Nothing explicit beyond some kissing, but references to sex, teen sex, oral sex, erections, breasts and cleavage, fantasies, and pornography. Fanboy looks up a girl's dress. Kyra twice flashes her breasts.


Some use of "s--t" and other swearing.


Computer, software, and soft drink brands.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens smoke, drink beer, use pills to stay awake.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book about two comic book-loving misfits may be a good choice for comic book fans and graphic novel readers. It shows the impact of bullying and what it's like to be an outsider, and could be used by inspired parents and teachers to open up discussions on empathy, bullying, and school violence. It does include swearing, sexual references, and teenage misbehavior, including drinking, smoking, bullying, and cheating in school. One main character has attempted suicide, while the other has violent fantasies. Both main characters threaten a school administrator with false sexual accusations at different times. The story continues in Lyga's Goth Girl Rising.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byksey August 7, 2009

isolation and lonliness of high school

This book is a great segue from graphic novels to novels. Also this book contains enough authenticity to attract readers but enough mediation of negative aspect... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bySavannah jones October 30, 2015
Kid, 11 years old August 12, 2011


cool bad

What's the story?

A smart comic book geek has an unhappy life at home and is bullied at school. But an unexpected friendship with an edgy comic-loving girl brings some unexpected drama -- and perspective -- to his life.

Is it any good?

Give first-time novelist (and fanboy himself) Barry Lyga a bonus point for being original. The story gives all the signs of heading for an operatically tragic ending, and then doesn't go there. Any alert reader will be sure early on that they know exactly where this book is headed. There's mad telegraphing here -- the bullying, the loving relationship with a bullet, the stepfather (step-fascist) who keeps guns, the violent fantasies, the isolation, and lack of support. But take the points away again for having an ending that just fizzles out all of a sudden -- apparently he didn't have the courage to follow his own foreshadowing.

Give him another point for enjoyably and wittily explicating comic-geek culture -- he shows real insight into and sardonic compassion for outsider teens. But then take away two for trying to turn the protagonists' really damaging behavior into a heroic stand against blustering adults.

No question that newbie author Lyga has the writing chops and clearheaded understanding of adolescents to be a fine young adult novelist. He can write an over-the-top, cringe-worthy scene of teen humiliation with the best of them. But he will need to learn a few things about plotting -- such as how to follow his own setup, how to write an ending, and how to empower his heroes without resorting to the kind of manipulation that loses them any right to the reader's sympathy.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Donnie's violent fantasies. Do you think they are realistic, given the bullying he endures at school? Do you see kids at school who get treated like he does?

  • This book has a sequel, Goth Girl Rising, told from Kyra's point of view. Are you interested enough to follow the story? Why do you think Lyga wanted to write the next installment? Why would a publisher be interested in publishing a sequel?

Book details

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