Barry Lyga, author of The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, tweeted asking if anyone would review his audio book. Feeling more than a little cheeky, I replied that I’d love a copy and to my surprise he asked for my address.
So, onto the review.
First impressions count and I really like the packaging design (see picture). It has all the feel of a graphic novel without being garish and the cover says far more than you might realise at first. Best of all it will look pretty cool on my shelf too.
The trouble with audio books is that someone else is reading it to you. Consequently the characters speak and think in tones chosen by someone else which, of course, colours the story, unfortunately that’s not always in a shade that suits me.
Scott Brick narrates this book. An extremely well-respected and ‘in demand’ narrator of audio books, Scott was named Narrator of the Year by Publishers Weekly in 2007 and has many awards under his belt. I’m not surprised, he was extremely easy to listen to. Scott’s voice is reminiscent of Christian Slater bringing back memories of Heathers and Pump up the Volume (favourite old-school movies of mine!), lending this story just the right edge of ‘teenage angst’ without melodrama. He also successfully and believably brings a different feel to each of the characters without missing a beat or breaking the story’s flow.
I think it’s probably important to say upfront that I’m not the target audience for this book. Amazon place it in their teen section and whilst some may say I have my ‘teenage’ moments, I’m a long way past those days!
My suspicion is that the title is tongue in cheek. If you’re expecting a super-exciting edge-of-fantasy style story, then take a step back as this is nothing like that, it’s, what I would call a slow burner.
The story follows 15-year-old ‘Fanboy’ on a journey of self discovery against the backdrop of all the miseries of teenage life for someone who not only doesn’t fit in, but doesn’t have any intention of being like those stupid jocks who do.
Seemingly out of the blue Fanboy is contacted by Kyra, the mysterious Goth Girl, who, during the course of the story, is the catalyst that gives him the confidence to start seeing his world in a whole new way.
This story revels in the details, it potters along at a sedate post, confident that it will get where it’s going when it’s good and ready. Even the more dramatic scenes have a mundane feel to them that I think serves to excellently highlight the way Fanboy feels about his world. Perhaps more importantly the story held my attention throughout.
The character development is extremely honest and believable. The thoughts and feelings experienced by the teenagers, as seen through Fanboy’s eyes ring so true, certainly of my school day experiences. We are able to peek in and see the confusion and insecurity experienced by the most unlikely people.
The slightly obsessive compulsive nature of Fanboy’s routines, thoughts and behaviours weave through the story in an understated way that outlines a talented but shy personality. The way he thinks is exactly in tune with his behaviour, his world and the life he leads. Nothing felt out-of-place, forced or unlikely.
The same goes for Kyra, a deeply troubled teen dealing with the trauma of her mother’s departure. Having had a very similar school friend myself I really felt for her and for Fanboy’s frustration at her seemingly erratic and self-destructive behaviour.
They’re clever kids and they do seem to understand the ‘adult world’ better than they are ever given credit for. Yet they are not so ahead of themselves that it doesn’t confound them from time to time, again, so real to the feel of life at that age.
I have done very little background reading on this, or Barry, (I like to read or listen to a story before doing any of that) but I did catch a glimpse of an article asking how autobiographical this story of a budding graphic novel writer was for him. I’d be surprised if he hadn’t drawn on real experiences to a great degree when writing this story it’s too truthful to be anything other than based in reality.
It wasn’t earth shattering, it hasn’t made me think in a new and exciting way, it hasn’t changed my life, but I do really care about Fanboy and Goth Girl, and I think I may well have to pick up Goth Girl Rising to find out what happens next.
This is my first experience of Barry Lyga’s work, and I will most definitely be looking for more of his stuff. So, thanks for taking the time and effort to send it over the pond to me Barry! Much appreciated, and you might just have yourself a new fan(girl). 🙂