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goth-girl-rising-barry-lyga-paperback-cover-artReviewed by Cal Cleary

Barry Lyga’s debut book, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, introduced readers to an exceptionally well-realized suburb that every kid wanted to escape. The suburb was populated by eminently hatable adults who really weren’t all that bad and a social dynamic far more complex than it first appeared – a place he would revisit in every subsequent novel. It also introduced us to the two titular characters, narrator Fanboy and his dark new friend, Goth Girl, and while that book certainly wrapped up Fanboy’s emotional journey, it ended on an extremely unsatisfying note with regards to his companion.

Goth Girl Rising, Lyga’s fourth book, largely fixes that issue. Beginning six months later in the same sleepy town, Goth Girl Rising is told from the point-of-view of Kyra Sellers, also known as Goth Girl. Fresh from a mental hospital where she landed after her dad became frightened that she would try to kill herself again, much of the novel deals with Kyra coming to terms with the people in her life. When the book opens, she’s filled with rage over friends who didn’t keep in touch, a father who can’t handle her, a mother who died when she was young and just about everything else under the sun. With no idea how to channel or even understand that rage, Kyra’s self-destruction seems almost inevitable.

Lyga appears to have a harder time getting inside Kyra’s head with the same wit and insight he displayed with past protagonists. A long stretch in the middle of the book begins to feel repetitive as Kyra cycles through the same conflicts for the same reasons. Though she does make progress as the book moves on, it nonetheless begins to grate until, inevitably, new dimensions are revealed. While some resolutions and revelations feel relatively unearned, other issues maintain a genuine resonance – Kyra’s confusion with regards to her sexuality and her attraction to a female friend of hers, for example, is both interesting and well-handled.

Ultimately, while it lacks the consistency of Lyga’s first two books, it is an able sequel to The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, giving the cast some much-needed resolution. Goth Girl Rising‘s strongest moments give us an intimate view of a young woman struggling to understand death and cope with loss. Not every thread Lyga follows offers quite so much emotional pay-off as the main one, the book is more hit than miss, a stirring portrayal of genuine teen angst among the outcasts.

For more information, please visit Barry Lyga’s website.

Cal is a young, underemployed librarian and a frequent contributor to Read/RANT comic book reviews. He’s currently living in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, with his family and using the post-grad-school grace period to read and write as much as he can.