Kyra is back from the mental institution where she spent six months after her dad thought she wanted to kill herself. She’s been released to return home and go back to high school, because she’s not considered a threat to herself any more. But that doesn’t mean life is easy. Her dad, whom she calls Roger, is keeping a tight leash on her, she hates school and gets in trouble her first day back, and she’s very angry. Angry at Roger, angry at her mother who died of cancer a few years ago, and most of all angry at the guy she calls Fanboy, who told Roger she may be suicidal and got her sent away in the first place.
While Kyra was away, Fanboy has suddenly gone from being a geek to being popular with a lot of the kids in school. He’s publishing his graphic novel serially in the pages of the school journal, and he’s getting a lot of attention for it. Before, no one really knew Fanboy except Kyra. She gave him advice about his graphic novels, and she thought they may become more than friends. But now that Fanboy seems to have dropped her and moved on, she’s bent on getting revenge.
Goth Girl Rising by Barry Lyga is not an easy book to read, mostly because Kyra is such a hard character to like. Her emotions are raw, she bucks all authority, and she’s what every parent doesn’t want to have for a child: a smoking, cursing, school-skipping, car-stealing, in-your-face girl. Yet, interspersed between the chapters with Kyra’s voice are vignettes of a small poem that builds as the book goes on. It’s Kyra’s memory of her cancer-chemotherapy-ravaged mother’s last days. These vignettes give you a glimpse into the pain and guilt that Kyra has never dealt with since her mother’s illness and death, and you begin to see what’s behind her self-destructive behavior.
While Goth Girl Rising is a continuation of the story from The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, this book stands on its own and you don’t have to have read the first one to appreciate it. This book is definitely for older girls, I’d say 15 and up. The teens use foul language, are sexually promiscuous, drink alcohol, smoke, and make very bad decisions based on faulty information. It all feels painfully real, and the situations should provide great discussions between mothers and daughters and book club members.