Tales of the MADMAN Underground by John Barnes

June is Jaded 
Teenagers are typically pegged as feeling left out, and marginalized. Most of these books follow a similar theme, but then again...most of the people in these books actually have a reason to feel that way! From bullies to special powers, these kids have some serious problems. Hopefully you will find something interesting, or something relatable, that catches your eye.

Karl has a plan, he's doing anything he needs to get out of Lightsburg, OH. If that means working five jobs while finishing high school, then I guess that's what he's going to do! His other plan has to do with the Madmen. He's decided to take a break from them this year, and just be "Normal." He isn't entirely sure how to do that, but he thinks it starts with avoiding his therapy group, not getting sent to therapy, and in general thinking normal thoughts, wearing normal clothes, hanging with normal people...phew, it's pretty exhausting!

Things are not off to the best start: it's the first day of senior year and his "Low-Stress Teacher Number One" is replaced with Coach Gratz for English, his best friend Paul is strangely avoiding him (when Karl is supposed to be avoiding him!), and the new girl Marti (a new Madmen recruit) asks him to the Back to School dance...

Karl has been taking care of his alcoholic mother since his dad passed away, most of the other Madmen are in a similar care-taking situation, or they have to avoid them for other horrible reasons. After a particularly rough morning in Gratz's class, all the Madmen, one by one, walk out...except him. Gratz has offered him a free pass to get out of therapy, it's his one chance at normalcy! He can't just give up on his plan.

As school gets underway, it begins to be clear that Karl is the go-to guy for taking care of his friends when they're in trouble. He can't turn his back on them, even if it puts his own plans on hold. With his mom getting involved with a new guy, he thinks that maybe things could be better for a while. He starts hanging out with the Madmen even in public, and the new girl turns out to be a pretty good friend. Things are hardly normal, but hey, how can you give up good friends for normal?
"Besides saving Paul from ass-thrashings, us Madmen, singly and in combination, also saved Paul from running away, and suicide attempts, and getting into serious drugs. He took a lot of saving, and it wasn't all because his dad would slap him around and call him a homo. Hell, Kimmie wasn't half that much a mess for being beat up and called a whore. She was tough and mean and looking for the right guy to run away with and marry, and that's what she'd do as soon as a guy that wasn't a loser hood was interested in her. The thing was, Paul's reaction to all that shit at home was always fucking grand opera, with all the Madman Underground as supporting players," (Barnes pg. 321, 2009).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Punkzilla by Adam Rapp
The Orange Houses by Paul Griffin
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork

Barnes, John. Tales of the MADMAN Underground. New York: Viking, 2009.

Cut by Patricia McCormick

Callie is a cutter. We meet her in a mental facility where she is refusing to talk. She doesn't want to tell her therapist when she started, why she started, why she keeps cutting herself. It's a coping mechanism, even if it's not a very healthy one. At first, it was just because the blade was there. Opportunity, and that nasty idea in the back of her head. And the sensation that brought relief.

Her parents don't know what to do anymore. That's why she's at Sea Pines (or Sick Minds, as all the patients call it). She's in the girls ward with other people with "issues": anorexic, druggies, behavioral problems.

It's not until she relapses that she decides to start talking. She tells her therapist about her brother Sam, who is always sick. Everyone has to tiptoe around him, do the chores, keep the house extra clean. It becomes another way to control her out of control environment to cut. She's afraid of what will happen once she starts to talk...

Can Callie come around, and begin to heal? This is a very powerful look at what cutting can do to a person, a family, a life. It will appeal to older teens, and those who are struggling with similar issues.

"I hold my breath and push down on the piece of metal. It sinks in neatly.
A sudden liquid heat floods my body. The pain is so sharp, so sudden, I catch my breath. There's no rush, no relief. Just pain, a keen, pulsing pain. I drop the pie plate and grasp my wrist with my other hand, dimly aware even as I'm doing it that this is something I've never done before. Never tried to stop the blood. Never interfered. It's never hurt like this before. And it's never not worked...
And suddenly I'm up, out of bed, walking down the room. There's no thinking now, only walking. Down the hall, around the corner to Ruby's desk. Holding my arm out like an offering," (McCormick pg. 51, 2000).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Sold by Patricia McCormick
You Don't Know Me by David Klass
Willow by Julia Hoban

McCormick, Patricia. (2000). Cut. New York, NY: PUSH/Scholastic, Inc.

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Valerie loves her boyfriend. He really gets her, and he stands up for her when all the other kids call her "Sister Death". It's a daily thing for Val and her friends, being bullied, being ridiculed, getting beat up. One day, Val starts the 'Hate List' - a list of all the people that she can't stand. She and Nick add names whenever someone else wrongs them. Like all the SBRBs (Skinny Barbie Rich Bitches) that none of them can stand. At least she has friends like Stacey and Duce to rely on...until that horrible day when everything falls apart.

Val had noticed that Nick was acting different lately, spending too much time with that burnout Jeremy and getting stoned all the time. But when Jeremy wasn't around, she could still see the old Nick in there. Maybe if she just gave him time he would quit hanging out with Jeremy, and things could go back to normal. The day started normally. She joked with him about the Hate List, and told him to add Jessica Campbell to the list...she was always picking on Val for no reason, and a stupid cheerleader blond chick. But she never thought...she never wanted...

Val didn't even see the gun at first, just heard the noise, and the screaming, and saw the blood. Her body went on autopilot, and everything was chaos. As Nick went from one person on the list to another, she tried to focus on stopping him, telling him to wait, not understanding who this person was, or why he was doing this. "Don't you remember our plan?" he asked her...like this was her idea too, but she had thought it was all a joke. A way to express their frustrations, but not ever something to act on. Can this be happening?

In the aftermath of the shooting, Val is stuck in limbo between hero and villain. Most people thing she was one of the reasons that everything happened in the first place. After a summer of therapy and grief, she decides to go back to school. After all, she hadn't wanted any of this, hadn't wanted anyone to die. She even stopped him, it's her school too. But will she be able to withstand all the dirty looks and hateful words?

She finds an ally in the most unexpected place, and loses friends that she thought were forever. In this powerful story, Brown explores the complicated emotions surrounding a tragedy like a school shooting from a new perspective - that of the survivors. A must read.

"'Lots of people died, Valerie. Your boyfriend Nick killed them. Do you have any idea why?'

I thought about this. In all the piecing together of what happened at the school, it had never occurred to me to even ask myself why. The answer seemed to obvious-Nick hated those kids. And they hated him back. That's why. Hate. Punches in the chest. Nicknames. Laughs. Snide comments. Being shoved into the lockers when some idiot with an attitude walked by. They hated him and he hated them and somehow it ended up this way, with everyone gone," (Brown pg. 145, 2009).

*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Shooter by Walter Dean Myers
Thirt3en R3asons Why by Jay Asher
After by Francine Prose

Brown, Jennifer. (2009). Hate List. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

Echo by Kate Morgenroth

Justin was a normal kid, he liked school and had friends. Then the unthinkable happens...his brother is joking around after school. He gets dad's gun out of the bedside table...Justin tells him to quit messing around, put it away...but it's too late. His brother is gone, dead, nothing will ever be okay again.

This morning nothing goes right. His mom acts like he's the one that should have died. At school, his former best friend makes sure to single him out for bullying. Everyone glares at him like he's a murderer. Even the good things he does, like winning the race in the pool, gets downplayed. His ex-girlfriend is giving him mixed signals, and the principle is threatening to "make an example of him". The last thing that happens that day is too horrible to process.

Next thing he knows, he's waking up, and reliving the same day. The same horrible day. But this time it's a little bit different, just slightly. Maybe this time he can change things...maybe this time it will end differently?

Fascinating story told from a unique perspective. The author draws you in and keeps you guessing until the end. Quick read, a mix between Donnie Darko and Groundhog Day.
"Lunchtime, Justin told the voice. It's the worst. It makes me feel like I've got the plague or something. He was standing in the lunch line, but there was a significant gap around him, as if no one wanted to get too close...He always hurried to the lunch room so he would get there in time to claim an empty table. 'But don't other people come and sit down with you?' the voice asked. No, Justin said. Never," (Morganroth pg. 33, 2007).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Jude by Kate Morgenroth
Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson
Right Behind You by Gail Giles

Morganroth, Kate. (2007). Echo. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Burn by Suzanne Phillips

Cameron used to be a good student. He used to enjoy going to school, and hanging out with his friends. But when he got to high school, everything changed. His first friend wants nothing to do with him after the rumors that they were gay started. He is constantly bullied by the popular kids, and he doesn't even know why. His mom is oblivious, and since his dad left he would rather not ask for her help anyway. He doesn't want to upset her even more.

The bullying gets worse, every time Cameron makes a connection with someone Patterson makes sure they want nothing to do with him. If only that guy wasn't around. He used to run, and everything would disappear, nothing could bother him when he ran. Now he burns things, small things at first. Then the "incident" happens...Patterson and his lackey ambush him in the locker room. They hold him down. He doesn't want to think about it. He just leaves and runs and sets something big on fire. The fire will make it all clean, burn away the memory. If only he can forget, maybe he can pretend it didn't happen.

Patterson won't let him forget, he posts the picture in school...there's no going back after that. Nothing will ever be okay. His mom's boyfriend Randy tries to protect him, but can Cameron really trust him? Or is he just another guy that will fall out of his life. Everything is spiraling out of control, and he doesn't know if he can stop it. The only thing that makes him feel better is fire...burning things is a true destruction, a true new beginning...
"Cameron's going to get rid of them all. Then everything will be better. He can go back to thinking about normal stuff. He'll even get his homework done.

It'll be like today never happened.

Like in the movies, where they go in and cut out a scene that didn't work. What happened today definitely isn't working for Cameron. Cut and paste. It's that simple," (Phillips pg. 125, 2008).

*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Chloe Doe by Suzanne Phillips
The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon
Right Behind You by Gail Giles

Phillips, Suzanne. (2008). Burn. New York : Little, Brown and Co.

Goth Girl Rising by Barry Lyga

In this highly anticipated sequal to Lyga's The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, we see things from Kyra's point of view.

Goth Girl, or Kyra, had a pretty rough time after Fanboy turned her in...well, that's what it felt like anyway. Just because she had that bullet doesn't mean she was going to use it. So she got shipped off to the psych ward because DCHH: "daddy couldn't handle her". After her mom died of cancer, her dad didn't seem to be able to handle much. So maybe she had gotten a little self-destructive, so had he!

So she's finally out of the loony bin, and back to reality...but this time she's got an agenda. She can't forgive Fanboy for leaving her alone the whole time, never calling, never emailing...how could he just forget about her like that?

Back in school, she takes a new approach. She gives up the "all-black" theme, and goes for all white...with a shaved head. That definetely gets some looks, but what takes the cake is the bright blue lipstick that adds that pop of color. When Fanboy sees her, he acts like nothing has changed between them. He compliments her, telling her how great she looks...where does he get the nerve for that?!

Her revenge must be slow. Methodical, and deliberate. She won't forgive him, no matter how sympathetic he's being...no matter that he's dedicated his season finale of Schemata to her...she can't forgive him. He didn't save her! She has to stay strong, forget all the ideas about kissing him, or...anything else.

Plus, she has enough problems to deal with at home. Roger is all over her, trying to get her to "be normal" as if that's even possible. She can handle all of it. Right? People don't change, so why should she even give them a chance. Except maybe Fanboy is different...

"Here's the thing. Here's the thing I hate: His concern is like a really warm drink when your body is cold, and you feel it go all the way down your throat and then into your stomach, where it pools and spreads out.

But the problem is that cold is good. Cold is numb. And when you're numb, you can't feel pain. You can't feel pain until some stupid warm drink makes you not numb anymore and then you can feel again.

I'm not weak. I'm not. And he can't change that," (Lyga pg. 189, 2009).

*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga
How To Steal a Car by Pete Hautman
Cut by Patricia McCormick

Lyga, Barry. (2009). Goth Girl Rising. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin.

Debbie Harry Sings in French by Meagan Brothers

Johnny's life is pretty out of control. His dad is killed in a car accident, and his mom checks out for a while. He deals with it by drinking and going to clubs, until the night when things go too far. He ends up getting dumped at the ER, treated for an overdose, and shipped off to rehab.

The only thing that gets him through rehab is Debbie Harry, lead singer of the new wave band Blondie. He can't get enough of her. When he gets out of rehab, his mom isn't sure what to do, she just knows that she can't handle it. Johnny gets sent to live with his Uncle Sam in South Carolina. From Tampa to South Carolina? Johnny doesn't like the sound of it, but he doesn't have much choice.

His new school is a lot different from his old one, and it seems like he's attracting unwanted attention from some local bullies. He finds the cool local record store, and befriends a beautiful girl named Maria. He turns her on to Debbie Harry, and the friendship blossoms into something deeper. It turns out the local bullies dislike him because one of them is Maria's ex. But it's worth it, Maria is different from anyone he has ever known. She encourages him to be his own person, and understands his obsession with Debbie...the idea that he almost wants to BE her.

Maria comes up with a crazy scheme that starts with Johnny buying a dress. She tells him about an opportunity to perform in a drag show, and puts the idea in his head about dressing up like Debbie, with the possibility of winning some serious money. Will he go through with this? If he does, does that make him gay?

A great story about how gender roles are not always clear cut, and how self-expression is all about letting go of your fears and doubts.
"Go be Debbie!" Maria gave me a shove. Next thing I knew, I was standing onstage. A blast of wild hoots and hollers shot up from the blurry darkness in front of me. It was like looking into an eclipse," (Brothers pg. 170, 2008).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway
The Vinyl Princess by Yvonne Prinz
The Last Exit to Normal by Michael Harmon

Brothers, Meagan. (2008). Debbie Harry Sings in French. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, LLC.

Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks

Cadel Piggott is hardly what you would call a typical child. At the tender age of seven, he was busted for high-level computer hacking. His genius IQ, and his penchant for getting into trouble, are two characteristics that immediately set him apart. Another is his biological father, criminal mastermind Dr. Phineas Darkkon. While his father may be in prison for his crimes, he has arranged for Cadel to meet with his right-hand man, Dr. Thaddeus Roth.

Unbeknownst to Cadel's adoptive parents, his weekly counseling sessions with Thaddeus frequently serve as a chance for Cadel to converse with his father, and to learn more of the family business. In fact, Dr. Darkkon and Thaddeus have set up the Axis Institute to further Cadel's criminal career. With classes like Disguise, Embezzlement, and Infiltration with the Virus, Cadel is well on his way to a bright criminal future. He even creates his own phoney dating service to create a source of income so he can purchase parts to build his own computer (since he's not allowed to have one at home, due to his previous transgressions).

It's through his dating service that he makes his first real friend. Kay-Lee is a math whiz, and the two of them connect in a way he never has with another human being. When their relationship is threatened by his father, Cadel begins to see that maybe a life of crime isn't all it's cracked up to be.

His classmates at the Axis Institute hardly qualify as friend material. Everyone there is either wacko, too devious, too dangerous, or a liability to his reputation. As his classmates start disappearing and dying off one by one, Cadel starts to realize he may be in over his head. Can he hope to get away from Thaddeus and his father?

"As a School of Deception student, Cadel would have to attend certain compulsory courses as part of his first-year program. These courses would include Basic Lying (or 'Coping Skills'), Pure Evil (or 'Pragmatic Philosophy'), Case Studies I or ('Self-Discipline'), and Forgery (or 'Cultural Appreciation')," (Jinks pg. 84, 2005).

If you liked this, check out:

Genius Squad by Catherine Jinks
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil, and I Want to Be Your Class President by Josh Lieb

Jinks, Catherine. (2007). Evil Genius. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, Inc.