Tales of the Madman Underground
by Barnes, John
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Library Journal Karl Shoemaker is determined to be "perfectly, ideally, totally normal" for the first day of his senior year of high school. The odds are against him. Karl is a member of Madman Underground, a group therapy session for teens in trouble. Karl's brand of trouble involves an alcoholic mom, five jobs, a houseful of feral cats, and the well-earned moniker Pyscho. Follow Karl over the next six days (and 500-plus pages) as he learns that for a Madman, normalcy is overrated. Why It Is for Us: The "historical" part of this romance will appeal to fans of Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused. Our protagonist swings from being, as one of his friends calls him, a "regular Sir Gallahad" to chilling fits of anger. This book is the first, and not the last, title on this list that details the impact of bad parenting on kids.-Angelina Benedetti, King Cty. Lib. Syst., WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly High school senior Karl Shoemaker just wants to be normal. Since fourth grade, Karl has been unable to escape the stigma of the Madman Underground, a school therapy group for screwed-up kids (he earned the nickname "Psycho" after cutting up a classmate's rabbit in seventh grade). But with a drunken, hippie mom who believes that Nixon is in cahoots with aliens and who steals Karl's hard-earned money, a horde of pet cats that leave droppings everywhere and a claustrophobic hometown that still worships his deceased father (the former mayor), Karl's quest for normalcy seems doomed. In his YA debut, Barnes masterfully turns what should be a depressing tale about teenage misfits who are regularly abused, molested or neglected into a strangely heartwarming story about a kid who refuses to suck the lemons life keeps handing him, the bonds of friendship and the lengths a son will go to protect his mother. The language is R-rated, but with Breakfast Club-like realism, Barnes delivers scenes from which, like a car wreck, readers will be unable to look away. Ages 14-up. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list *Starred Review* After a long career in science fiction, Barnes has taken a heroic stab at the Great American Novel. Set over the span of just six days in 1973 but weighing in at more than 500 pages Barnes' coming-of-age epic is overlong, tangled with tangents, and takes a kitchen-sink approach when it comes to teenage trauma. Yet rarely will you read something so lovingly vulgar, so fiercely warmhearted, and so exuberantly expansive that even its long-windedness becomes part of its rogue charm. It's the story of Karl Shoemaker, a senior starting the first week of classes in his blue-collar Ohio town. This year he's determined to execute Operation Be Fucking Normal, but that isn't easy when he is working five jobs to pay the bills of his drunkard, star-child mother; wakes up early to clean up the poop from their zillions of cats (and bury the dead ones in their backyard Cat Arlington); and is deeply connected to the other kids forced to take school therapy aka the Madman Underground. The plot is slight, but Karl's fellow madmen revel in their wild tales of survival and revenge, and the culmination comes off like a high-school One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. Always ambitious, often caustic, and frequently moving.--Kraus, Daniel Copyright 2009 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

School Library Journal Gr 9 Up-Karl Shoemaker, in group therapy at school since fourth grade, turns a new leaf on the first day of senior year, 1973. His goal is to be normal and avoid therapy while still keeping his friends, who are all part of the Madman Underground. Karl's widowed mother is an alcoholic, hippie, conspiracy-theorist slut who steals his earnings (he has five jobs) for benders. At one time or another, most Madmen are locked out of their houses by drunk or absent parents, or don't go home to avoid getting beaten, or felt up. They depend on one another's hospitality by way of empty basements, open windows, and unlocked cars. Barnes writes with amazing ease and clarity. He has a light, immediate feel for character, and the ensemble of Madmen, teachers, parents, and crotchety townspeople is distinct and fully formed. Dialogue between Karl and this motley crew is mostly hilarious, expletive laden, and consistently flawless. Karl's conversations with Marti, the newest Madman, are among the most heart-melting in teen literature. Barnes's descriptions of small-town Ohio defy the usual pitfalls of the back-when-the-author-was-a-teen setting-Lightsburg is so believably backward it seems timeless. While a moral dilemma may seem an underwhelming plot device, Karl's psychological journey is consistently gripping. His narration is so easy and engaging, so sweet and funny, so astonishingly truthful that teens will rip through these 500-plus pages and want more.-Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.