The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl is narrated by a brainy outcast whose mother calls him Donnie but who is nicknamed Fanboy. Fanboy loves graphic novels, does well in school, and has a single friend: Cal. Cal is an athlete who loves comics but tends to ditch Fanboy whenever his sports friends are around. The other jocks at Fanboy’s school tend to beat up on him—if they notice him at all.
On the day the novel begins, Fanboy has to play dodge ball in gym class. He allows himself to get hit by a ball as early as possible, and he wonders:
What unrelentingly stupid jackass decided that it was a good idea to take a cluster of people of widely varying body types, strength levels, and skill sets (to say nothing of ever-shifting moralities and ethics), and then encourage them to hit each other with a ball?
As he waits in the Dead Zone for the game to be over, a boy named Mitchell Frampton joins him and begins punching him in the arm. Fanboy asks Mitchell to stop, but Mitchell keeps punching him over and over in the same spot. Fanboy assumes that complaining to the teacher will make the bullying worse. He knows he has no chance of fighting Mitchell and winning, so he just stands still and takes the punishment. At first Fanboy thinks nobody sees, but then he catches a glimpse of a white-faced, black-clad person in the bleachers. The next school day is much the same, including the dodge ball punching treatment. Fanboy does his best to live through it until he can get home for the night.
At home, Fanboy does his best to avoid interacting with his pregnant mother and “the step-fascist.” He does his homework, chats via Instant Messenger with Cal, and obsessively reads the website for the comic book convention he will attend next weekend. At least once per day, he checks to make sure his hero, the comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis, is still planning to attend the convention. One day this predictable evening routine shifts. Someone with the screen name Promethea387 contacts Fanboy on Instant Messenger and asks, “Why do you let him hit you?” Fanboy does not know who is writing to him or how she (he guesses Promethea is a girl) knows about Mitchell. She sends a grainy photo of Mitchell’s attack and offers to back Fanboy up if he wants to report the bullying. From the angle of the picture, Fanboy guesses that Promethea is the black-clad figure who sits in the bleachers during gym. He agrees to meet her after school the next day.
The girl is named Kyra, and she peppers her language with profanity. She claims that she stole a doctor’s note from her depressed sister to get out of participating in gym class. She gives Fanboy his nickname because she thinks he has juvenile taste in comic books, whereas she likes more esoteric stories. When the conversation shifts to the gym class bullying, Fanboy expects her to call him a wimp, but she says he is like “an Indian warrior” because he takes the pain and never lets Mitchell know it hurts. Kyra also says offhand that she would not mind if someone killed ninety-nine percent of the people at South Book High. This scares and impresses Fanboy, who has a recurrent fantasy that terrorists take over the school and kill all the kids who bully him. Without really planning to, Fanboy confides in her and shows her the bullet he carries every day as a kind of security blanket. Afterward, Kyra drives Fanboy home in a car she says she borrowed from her sister.
That evening Fanboy works on Schemata, the graphic novel he is writing. He wants to tell Kyra about it, but he has never told anyone—not even Cal—about his project. As he works, he receives Instant Messages from Kyra and Cal at the same time. Never having juggled two friends before, he does not know what to do. He acts awkward and stand-offish with both of them and accidentally sends Kyra a message he intended to send to Cal. Kyra seems annoyed, but she invites him to hang out with her the next day.
Kyra picks Fanboy up in a different car, one she says also belongs to her sister, and they drive around talking. Fanboy confesses that he does not really have any friends. Kyra chain-smokes and says her mother died of lung cancer. She says she has to go to a therapist; when Fanboy asks why, she shows him several deep scars crisscrossing her wrists. Later, when Fanboy complains about a minivan with a bumper sticker that says “My kid can beat up your honor student,” Kyra threatens to ram it. Fanboy talks her out of it, and she says he is gutless.
Fanboy gets home a little after nine, an hour later than he told his mom he would be away. She is always on his case to go out and spend time with friends instead of staying home alone, so he is shocked when she is angry that he is late. She says he is grounded, but a little while later she knocks on his bedroom door and apologizes; she says she overreacted because the hormones from her pregnancy are making her act crazy. He promises that he did nothing wrong, and she says she was just worried. She says he is not really grounded and asks him to be careful.
The next day, Fanboy goes out with Kyra again. She arrives in a third car and says it is a rental. They go to the mall, where he tells her about Schemata. It is a story about an inner-city schoolteacher with a superpower that allows her to enter the dreams and fears of the people she knows. She uses it to look into the minds of her students so she can try to help them with their problems. Fanboy confesses that he is planning to take some of his work to the comic book convention on Saturday and show it to Bendis.
At school the next day, Cal tells Fanboy that his team has made the playoffs. He demands that Fanboy come to the game, but it is on Saturday, the same day as the comic book convention. Cal shrugs off the convention, saying they can go to another one someday. To him, the playoffs are far more important....
(The entire section is 2426 words.)