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.

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