Tales of the Madman Underground

 
4.0
 
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Tales of the Madman Underground
Author(s)
Publisher
Age Range
14+
Release Date
June 25, 2009
ISBN
067006081X
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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.

Editor reviews

1 reviews

I'm Glad I'm Not Karl
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
0.0
Writing Style 
 
0.0
I really liked Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes. I didnt expect to, but it caught me from the first chapter. Karl Shoemaker is the narrator. Its his senior year in high school and hes got a plan. He wants to be normal..for just one year. Hes going to distance himself from the Madmen Underground, his therapy group since forever. But its easier said than done. First, hes going to sneak out of the house early and grab the first bus to school, leaving his best friend, Paul, alone on the late bus. He gets his foot in the door just as Jolene, the bus driver and his mothers drinking buddy, is about to close it. What does he see ahead of him? Paul, who totally ignores him. Its going to be that kind of year.

The Madmen Underground is comprised of 7 or 8 kids who have problems like drinking, having alcoholic parents, being abandoned by their parents, having lecherous relatives or abusive parents. In his first class of the day, he sits next to Marti, who he soon finds out is joining the Madmen. She wants to be his friend. Things are not going well for normalcy.

Tales of the Madman Underground recounts six days of Karls life and includes countless flashbacks. Karl works hard and saves his money, but his mother keeps finding it and borrowing it, hitting the bars, leaving IOUs that will never get paid. Theyve got a houseful of cats who keep crapping on the floor and on his bed. Darla, another Madman, brings her stuffed bunny, Mr. Babbitt, to school and converses with it. Pauls father verbally abuses him. It goes on and on, each Madman having his/her own personal demons.

The book, set in 1973, is serious and funny and hopeful. It is cast with wonderful characters. Youll love them, empathize with them, give them a smack on the head. You can visualize each situation. The setting of 1973 brings an interesting element to the book. Tales is a hard book to describe but its well worth reading. Go for it&it wont be a normal book.
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