The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga
The Fanboy is a Bendis-obsessed comic book-loving maladjust with one friend in the entire school (really, more like half a friend since Cal is a lacrosse player who usually hangs out with popular jocks). The Goth Girl is Kyra, a Sandman-obsessed, somewhat unstable chain smoker. They meet when Kyra takes pictures of Fanboy being beaten up in gym class, and from there, embark on a friendship that is by turns, confusing and exciting.
Fanboy is working on a graphic novel (that has, I might add, a very cool-sounding plot involving an ordinary woman who can make people's hopes, dreams, and fears take corporal form), and he's hatching the following plot:
1. Take graphic novel to comics convention and show it to Bendis.
From the plot, you'd expect giddy fun, but the book is quite a bit darker than that. Kyra shows Fanboy scars from where she's cut her wrists, and Fanboy entertains more than a few Trenchcoat Mafia daydreams. bookshelves of doom's problems with Fanboy and Goth Girl are completely on target; however, there were a few things about the book that impressed me enough to recommend it anyway:
1. Lyga's portrayal of high school bullying is frighteningly realistic, and his characters aren't "outsiders" in the typical misunderstood, secretly super-cool way. They are really losers. They're frustrating, annoying, and damaged by the abuse heaped on them by their peers; however, it's surprisingly easy to relate to them, and sometimes, even to like them.
2. In lesser YA books of the dark variety, the worst thing that can possibly happen will. If real suburban life was like a YA novel, no one would get out alive. In the hands of a lesser writer, Fanboy would shoot up the school and Goth Girl would OD on sleeping pills. But Lyga realizes that saying you want to do something and actually doing it are two different things. Lyga's characters talk about a lot of hot button issues, almost casually. However, Lyga is more interested in exploring his characters than in manipulating them into living out 20/20 nightmares. Sure, real tragedies happen in high schools, but not every ugly adolescent thought ends in tragedy.
3. Outrageous Bendis cameo.
So, despite the whole "goth girl/comic book guy books are, like, so 2003" thing, the book has an interesting, fresh take on these kinds of characters that's worth checking out.