Booktalk: The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga

Fanboy Goth Girl Cover

First off, if you haven’t already read The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, I recommend that you do so ASAP.  That’s because in my opinion, this is one of the best young adult novels of the last decade.  To sum up, it’s a well-written and engaging story about a boy who is having trouble fitting in.  He doesn’t have a lot of friends (okay, he really has just ONE friend), he’s picked on by bullies on a regular basis, and he dreams of creating his own graphic novels.  When I first read this book and I got to the scene where the other boy kept hitting him with the dodgeball and nobody stepped in to help, I knew that I’d found the hook for my booktalk.

Now to be honest, this book is not only about bullying.  In fact, when Fanboy and Goth Girl become friends, the focus shifts to the subject of friendship, and the underlying issues of trust and betrayal that weave their way into that friendship.  But part of creating a booktalk is knowing that there’s no way you can tell the WHOLE story, that you’ll only have a few minutes to convince your audience to read this book, so you’ll have to narrow your focus in order to create a strong and memorable presentation.

Here’s some trivia for you: When Barry Lyga wrote this book, he planned for the end of the book to be the end of the story.  But he was deluged with so many questions from readers who loved the book and wanted to know more that he later wrote a sequel called Goth Girl Rising.

This is not a perfect booktalk, but it’s definitely one of my strongest.  I think it works well because Lyga’s scene in the gym causes such a visceral reaction, because students are all-too-familiar with the subject of bullying (they’ve done it to others, they’ve been victims, or they know other students who have been bullied), and perhaps (?) because second-person booktalks can be especially powerful.  After all, the word “you” directed at the audience over and over again can really make your listeners identify with the character in the book.  Whatever the reason, I can tell you that every single time I’ve booktalked this book to classes, this has been one of the most popular books that the students have requested afterwards.

BOOKTALK:

BAM.

That’s the sound the dodgeball makes when it hits you in the shoulder.  The fact that you’re already out of the game doesn’t seem to matter to Mitchell Frampton, because he’s decided to use you for target practice today.

BAM.

Again, in the same damn spot.  He really has incredible aim.

BAM.

Back when you used to complain to your mother about the bullies in school, she always said the same thing, “Just ignore them.”  That’s what you’re trying to do now.  You’re doing everything in your power not to cry out in pain.

BAM.

By tomorrow, your shoulder will be covered by a massive bruise so purple that it’s almost black.  Your mother will see this bruise and ask about it, but you won’t be able to tell her the truth – that “just ignore them” doesn’t always work.

BAM.

You look around the gym to see if anyone else notices what Mitchell is doing.  The gym teachers are busy talking to each other.  The other kids in the class either don’t see or don’t want to see what’s going on.  It would be great if one of your friends could rescue you, or at least stand up for you.  But that’s not going to happen, because you only have one friend in this school, and he’s not in your gym class because he’s a jock and you’re a weakling.

BAM.

But wait, there is someone watching.  Someone sitting alone in the bleachers on the other side of the gym.  Someone looking right at you.  You can’t tell who it is from where you’re standing, but you do notice the black clothes, the black hair, and the white face.  You don’t know it yet, but the first time you meet her, she’s going to call you “fanboy.”  You don’t know it yet, but this girl will not only become your best friend, she’s also going to change your life.

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