“Tales of the Madman Underground” by John Barnes

Tales of the Madman Underground Book Cover Tales of the Madman Underground
John Barnes
Juvenile Fiction
Penguin
2009
Paperback
532
Owned

2010 Michael L Printz Honor Book

 

Tales of the Madman Underground

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Tales of the Madman Underground

Wednesday, September 5, 1973: The first day of Karl Shoemaker's senior year in stifling Lightsburg, Ohio. For years, Karl's been part of what he calls "the Madman Underground" - a group of kids forced (for no apparent reason) to attend group therapy during school hours. Karl has decided that senior year is going to be different. 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 five 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

This big book was a little scary to start, the cover material did not make it sound like a book that I would enjoy, and it was a long one to boot. It was also a little slow to start, and I let myself get distracted by a couple of other things. Once I got going, and really got into it, though, I was hooked on Karl Shoemaker’s story.

Fair warning: there’s quite a bit of profanity, and he is a teenage boy who thinks a lot about girls. It’s also set in the 70s and there’s a lot of horrible stuff that happens to Karl and his friends. I know, I know. I’m really selling it here.

The stuff that makes the book so good is that Karl is a wonderful character. He’s not perfect, but I really loved him, and while there’s a lot of heartbreaking and scary situations, there’s a lot of hope and friendship and beautiful writing.

I would have chosen this over “Going Bovine” as the winner of the Printz award, personally. Definitely recommended to older teens and adults.