Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Goth Girl Rising by Barry Lyga

"Handle you?  God, Kyra--no one can handle you!  I certainly can't.  I'm surprised anyone could!"

In The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, Barry Lyga first introduced us to the prickly Goth Girl, a heroine who managed to be both kick-ass and damaged at the same time--sort of like Xena, Warrior Princess would be if she had childhood traumas and a stormy family life.  (Actually, maybe she did--I never watched her show.)  Goth Girl Rising continues Kyra's story, beginning from her release from the psychiatric hospital that her father committed her to because she was suicidal.  I'm so glad Lyga wrote this sequel because, well, unresolved endings are sophisticated and all, but sometimes you just love the characters so much you don't want to let them go until you know they've got what it takes to get through life.  For me, Goth Girl is like that.  I want to know that she's going to be okay, because Lyga wrote her so well I'm half-convinced she's real. 

I'm fascinated by Goth Girl's anger.  She is a young woman truly full of rage--rage at her mother for dying, at her father for living, at Fanboy for going incommunicado while she was hospitalized, and at her friend Jecca for making out with her in private but never in public.  She loves her rage.  She feeds it and strokes it and credits it for keeping her strong in the face of her mother's death and the subsequent unravelling of her life and family.  Goth Girl is so gutsy and outspoken that she'll say just about anything to just about anyone, and when she's revved up on rage, it's like fights on the old Batman TV show. KAPOW!  BAM!  ZOWIE!  She's not one to repress, that's for sure. She's not one to forgive, either. It's a strange kind of thrill to see grown adults--particularly her teachers and principal-crumple up as she rolls all over them.  And to wonder, incredulously, just how far she will go to get the revenge she thinks Fanboy deserves.  Her father, I just felt sorry for.

Goth Girl Rising is so satisfying, of course, because Lyga finally takes her beyond that rage and into understanding.  He needs to, really, because the truth is that Kyra is still suicidal sometimes, that with all of her anger she's alienated and in deep pain.  Her anger is a double-edged sword, bolstering her sense of purpose and direction but blocking her ability to heal.   When Kyra drops her constant anger, in a funny way she seems more emotionally honest.  Not that the anger was dishonest--it was real enough--but it wasn't letting anything else through.  It's a sign of Lyga's excellence as a writer that we care so much about such an angry kid.  Lyga never treats Goth Girl with anything less than complete respect.   

Here's a link to a Goth Girl interview with Barry Lyga.  I like his answer to the question of how he manages, as a man, to write the character of a teen girl so convincingly.  Does he have an inner Goth Girl?  No, apparently, he just has a lot of women friends, "and when they talk to me, I listen to them." Right on, Barry!

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