Thursday, July 15, 2010

Just another Madman

I’m almost caught up from the bout of mass reading a few weeks ago. Of those particular books, I only have two more to review for this blog. Of course, since then I’ve read a ton of other books, many of which I’ve already written and posted the reviews.

Last night I finished reading Tales of the Madman Underground: (an historical romance 1973) by John Barnes. It had been the book I kept to read during lunch or dinner when eating out alone, but I was getting so into the story that twice I brought it inside the house to read. Last night I finished it (while semi-ignoring a friend on chat. Sorry, Sharon!).

Karl Shoemaker has a big plan for his final year of high school. To act normal enough to get out of attending group therapy – for the first time in many years. There’s a few flaws with his plan, though, like his inability to abandon his friends – the other Madmen Underground (as the therapy kids call themselves), and dealing with his alcoholic, “free spirit” mother who keeps stealing his hidden cash, the many cats who live (and go to the bathroom everywhere) at their house, and working all five – yes, five – of his jobs.

Karl doesn’t really want much. He just wants to get through his senior year of high school as a “normal” kid and then join the army, leaving his small Ohio town behind forever. There’s a chance that it may happen, but first he needs to survive the beginning of the school year.


The story unfolds over six parts, each its own day, and is told in first person. Karl has issues. It’s not surprising, considering all of the craziness that is part of his life. Though, for a teen who has so much crap going on, he has his act pretty well together, which actually seems pretty real. You start to feel that you really know Karl. He’s believable. A little scary at times, but completely believable.

The setting is a fictional small town in northwestern Ohio, not too far from Toledo. Having been to a few real small towns in that area of Ohio, even if it was 30 years after the time period of the novel, I can say that the setting was pretty spot on. Yes…even 30 years later. While reading the text, I could “see” Lightsburg.


While the majority of the book was believable, the ending had a bit of a “yeah, right” feel to it. Even though I liked the character, I felt the same about a particular guy in Karl’s mom’s life.

Other info:

This book was a 2010 Printz Honor book.

Here’s the website for the book. The author actually has a Twitter account where he tweets as if he is Karl.

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