Tales of the Madman Underground

Tales of the Madman Underground

Book rating: 05 Paperback

By (author) John Barnes

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  • Publisher: SPEAK
  • Format: Paperback | 532 pages
  • Dimensions: 137mm x 203mm x 41mm | 476g
  • Publication date: 6 January 2011
  • Publication City/Country: New York, NY
  • ISBN 10: 0142417025
  • ISBN 13: 9780142417027
  • Edition statement: Reprint
  • Sales rank: 174,310

Product description

"The Catcher in the Rye meets On the Road"*-The Printz Honor book is a classic in the making! September 1973: The beginning of Karl Shoemaker's senior year in stifling Lightsburg, Ohio. For years, Karl's been part of "the Madman Underground"- kids forced to attend group therapy during school. Karl has decided that he is going to get out of the Madman Underground for good. He is going to act-and be-Normal. But Normal, of course, is relative. Karl has two after-school jobs, one dead father, one seriously unhinged drunk mother . . . and a huge attitude. Welcome to a gritty, uncensored rollercoaster ride, narrated by the singular Karl Shoemaker. *"The Horn Book"

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Author information

This is the acclaimed novelist John Barnes's first book for teenagers.

Customer reviews

By Alex Pennini 27 May 2014 5

I've always been annoyed at teen fiction; it struggles to be cinematic, never really feeling sincere. It's often crammed with issues relevant to teenagers (in a trying too hard kind of way) and more often than not glamorises issues that shouldn't be.

This book doesn't do that.

Tales of the Madman Underground is a first person narrative taking place over four or so days in the life of Karl Shoemaker. He is a member of the Madman Underground, a large squad of kids sent to group therapy during school hours. They stick together like glue but for this school year, Karl wants to be normal. No more Madman Underground, no more therapy, no more dealing with his crazy hippy mom. Just him, school, and the five jobs he works to avoid being in the same house as his mom.

And I can't tell you any more. To tell you more would be to spoil amazingly witty writing, honest dialogue and I never felt a moment was insincere or cliche. It's set in 1973, and makes for an excellent period drama, but strangely enough, everything the book discusses is relevant today, not dated at all.

I recommend this for any teenager who is sick of cliche love stories, of "everything was great, I love high school" sort of endings, for anyone who got sick of the endless parade of by the numbers teen books.

Review quote

"Rarely will you read something so lovingly vulgar, so fiercely warmhearted, and so exuberantly expansive . . . the culmination comes off like a teenage "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"." -"Booklist", starred review "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." -"School Library Journal", starred review "Darkly comic . . . as troubled, relevant, relatable and hilarious as J.D. Salinger." -"Los Angeles Times"