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This book is a real melting pot of emotions It reminded me very much of another favourite of mine Sorta Like a Rock Star in the way it created such a detailed, sad and often amusing picture of a teenager s life and how it pretty much just sucks a lot of the time.I like teen problem novels that know how to be funny but still make the desired emotional impact as well Karl Shoemaker lives with his alcoholic mother who steals his hard earned money and sometimes even locks him out of the house all night, he s had to live this life ever since his dad died He works five different jobs, has to put up with over thirty cats that like to do their business in his bedroom, all whilst struggling to cope with his raging teenage hormones i.e his constant erection Due to his screwed up life, he has to attend a therapy group for troubled kids at school, a group which the kids have affectionately named The Madman Underground.All the characters are different, interesting, insane, indeed there is no one who escapes insanity in John Barnes novel There are some rather gross, shocking and disturbing scenes, upsetting things that happen or almost happen that had me on edge but this all just adds to the book s unique charm Plus, even the sad and disgusting stuff tends to have some humour to balance it out.I really enjoyed Tales of the Madman Underground An Historical Romance 1973 and was pleased with the conclusion and the journey made by Karl s character It s so refreshing to have such an endearingly honest and funny narrator, it made the novel the perfect combination of serious and entertaining If only there were books like this. 4.5 I could say that not a whole lot of plot happens in this book I could say it s too long and that at times it veered toward After School Special albeit with no language censor territory I could say that no teenager has ever been able to verbally express themselves like the kids do in this book But none of that would matter in the end because any bumps in the road are completely obliterated by the sheer charismatic force of the protagonist Karl Shoemaker won me over pretty quickly just by cracking my shit up He has a quick wit with the cynical yet sweet humor of a good kid who has had to learn some pretty tragic lessons in everyday survival I started off laughing but quickly became completely invested in his story The characters in this novel are just fantastic Karl s backbreaking struggles to help his fellow Madmen stay afloat are poignant and bittersweet, even so when Karl seems irreversibly stuck on an island with his negligent mother Several times in the book the point is made that whether by choice or obliviousness, not many people are aware of what is going on in the personal lives of the people around them In homeroom one kid s largest worry is a date for the prom while the kid sitting next to him is wondering where he ll get his next mealI looked at the people playing, walking, loafing, hurrying, or sauntering across the little park in front of us How many terrible stories were there, just there in front of me, never to be spokenFor all of the terrible lessons the Madmen have had to endure, they also have learned an extremely valuable one while you may find yourself at times seemingly hopelessly adrift, you aren t alone on the life raft I loved this book. Have you ever watched the show How I Met Your Mother The show features Ted, a hopeless romantic, as he is telling his teenage kids the story of how he met their mother Cute, right Only he tells his kids the entire story, starting with the moment when he realized that he was looking for a long term relationship, marriage and kids So we, the viewers, follow Ted s stories of dating woes, drinking with his friends and all of the fun shenanigan s which follow Because, as Ted puts it, all of his experiences with the wrong women eventually lead him to the right woman The thing is, I love the characters on this show, and I even like the plot line But I can t buy the idea that twenty some years later any person will remember or even attach so much significance to all of the various individuals they dated Nor can I believe that a father will tell his teenage children about all of the drinking and sleeping around he and his friends did in their twenties For years the hubby has been a fan of this show and has encouraged me to watch it, but I resisted because I just can t get past the premise However, once I finally gave in and started watching with him, I found that it s actually a great show if I don t think about it too much.That s pretty much how I feel about Tales of the Madman Underground An Historical Romance 1973 Set in the 1970 s in small town Ohio, this book follows Karl Shoemaker into his senior year of high school Karl lives with his delusional, alcoholic mother As a result of his chaotic home life and some acting out he did as a kid he is part of the Madman Underground a group of kids from broken homes who are forced to endure weekly group therapy sessions at school Here is the thing, I love Karl I love the various Madmen and Madwomen and their stories I loved the writing, and the storyline What I didn t love or even understand is how the authorities in Karl s town and his school can recognize that these kids come from some fairly fucked up home lives and stick them in therapy, but not in foster care Nor do I understand how these teenagers have such great coping skills Or don t really act out other than to publically cry, or occasionally display acts of inappropriate sexuality On the one hand, these kids have had to endure years of group therapy, and I would like to think that is responsible for their great behavior But these are teenagers We all know how the best of them behave on a bad day sorry all you teens Bottom line is, even good teens behave badly So I just can t get around the fact that teens coming from homes with alcoholism, sexual abuse and absentee parents to name just a few end up so mature and responsible Growing up I had some messed up friends from messed up homes They weren t even half as well behaved, or self aware as Karl and the other Madmen They made mistakes They acted out They were irresponsible and messed up and affected by their home situation Granted, some had better coping skills than others, and not all were hot messes But in John Barnes story, all of the kids from unstable home lives are fairly stable I am just not buying it I feel bad not raving over this one Everyone else has, and really I see why It s a funny, insightful, quirky and entertaining book Well written, well rounded characters just not exceptionally believable characters Especially considering what life has thrown at them. It has been three days since I finished the last chapter of Tales of the Madman Underground, and I am still thinking about Karl Shoemaker Honest, humorous, foul mouthed, masculine, resourceful, and wounded, Karl is definitely the kind of protagonist you want to spend 500 pages with, and whose plights you sympathize with so greatly, you honestly lose yourself in the book, and in the five days during September 1973 that is the backdrop of his story Karl s father, the former mayor of their hometown in Lightsburg, Ohio, died of cancer, and his mother is now an alcoholic who believes in UFOs, the age of Aquarius, and keeping cats in great abundance Because of his family situation, Karl has been stuck in group therapy provided by his school every year since his father s death, a group which he has dubbed The Madman Underground But despite his strong connections to the other madmen, particularly Darla, who talks to everyone through a stuffed rabbit, and his lifelong best friend, suspected homosexual, Paul, Karl wants this year to be a normal year, and he hatches a plan called Operation Be F cking Normal I could say a lot about this book, but I feel like every time I try to describe it, I m not doing it justice The title calls it a romance, and I suppose, in part, it is one, but importantly, it s the story of Karl Shoemaker s difficult life, the unlikely friendships he shares with the other members of the underground, and his struggle to become normal while also trying to decide if that s even what he really wants John Barnes doesn t miss a beat in telling this story I found myself marking line after line of quotable passages Many YA narrators fall flat, sounding all very similar to one another Karl Shoemaker is a character whose voice you will remember and want to keep listening to even after you turn the final page Amazing I recommend it to older teens, and certainly to everyone else. Sometimes I pick up a book out of some misplaced sense of obligation, and I don t think I m alone in that Books make their way onto my reading list because they re being named important, or winning awards, or landing on Best of the Year lists I m especially prone to this around the end of the year, when I realize how few of the IT books of the year I ve read Usually these books don t sound particularly appealing to me, and usually I give myself permission to try them and abandon them if I m not interested enough to finish I m a big believer in not wasting time on books that I m not enjoying.The logical question to ask after that rambling intro is why do I even bother adding books like this to my reading list If it doesn t sound interesting to me, is it really worth tracking down a copy and struggling through my fifty page minimum before abandoning it My answer is yes, and it s because of books like this Tales of the Madman Underground did not catch my attention when it was released At all And then it started getting glowing reviews, and I still wasn t interested And then it became a Printz Honor book, and I felt like I had to pay attention So I added it to my reading list and comforted myself with thoughts of my fifty page rule And then I read it And I loved it And it s an amazing reminder of why I sometimes stretch myself in my reading.This remarkable book is set in the 1970s, which is fairly unusual, especially for teen books It follows the dysfunctional, difficult, and sometimes disturbing lives of a group of high schoolers connected by their therapy group And I could tell you all about what happens, or doesn t happen, to them but I won t because A you can read the plot summary on your own and B I m not sure how much that matters For me, this book was about the characters themselves How they interacted with each other, how they thought, and how much I cared about what would become of them The characters are the heart and soul of this book, and they are what kept me reading through this relatively long book They are imperfect, fierce, vulgar and damaged, and they re facing some very real challenges And I don t think I ll soon forget them.I m so grateful to all of the positive reviews and to the Printz Award for forcing my hand and making me try a book I was so reluctant to read May it serve as a reminder that it costs nearly nothing to stretch my reading, and sometimes the reward is a memorable favorite like this.For readers who want stories of a band of lovable misfits working to overcome challenging lives, try Sorta Like a Rock Star.The Perks of Being a Wallflower also explores difficult realities, like depression and isolation, and has become iconic than Tales of the Madman Underground.And finally, for anyone looking for another book filled with the kinds of characters who never leave you, give the heartbreaking How to Say Goodbye in Robot a try Meagan This is Karl s story, summed up in one week that might be the turning point for him Since his father died of cancer, his mother has turned into a paranoid alcoholic that hoards cats and steals Karl s money to buy drugs The Madman Underground of the title is his therapy group at school, a group of kids at least as messed up as he is who make up his friends and only real support group.This is quite a chunk of a book 530 pages in hardcover The one thing that keeps it going is Karl s voice He sounds exactly like a smart, troubled, very angry teenager should sound But that does make this tough reading It s jarring how casually Karl can talk about the terrible things that have happened to him and his friends, and enraging to realize just how little has been and will be done for them And then there s Karl s mother, who would rather let one of her pet cats die in pain than take the poor animal to a vet Will things improve for Karl after the end of the book I honestly don t know He does finally have at least some kind of adult support system, and he s both rebuilt relationships with his friends and started to extend his social circle But it s dependent on his mother not going back to her old ways, and my faith is lacking But Barnes got me to care about Karl, foul mouthed and angry though he is. Reviewed by Dianna Geers for TeensReadToo.comKarl has a plan for his senior year It s to be normal Or at least to appear to be normal Forever he has been known as slightly crazy and a target of harassment.There are a ton of obstacles that will make it difficult to pull of the normal appearance First of all, he has to avoid his very best friend in the world Not to mention the fact that he has to work endless hours to help support his mother and himself She has been off the deep end ever since his dad died And there s the cats So many of them in his house Karl constantly has to clean up their messes and even bury the ones that die before his mother sees him He never knows what is going to set her off He can t even keep his earnings in a bank because his mother would have access to them and she would spend it all And hiding his money around the house only works occasionally He also has to find a way to get out of the Madmen class required counseling for students identified as troubled How can anyone appear normal under those circumstances But Karl takes it one day at a time If he can make it through the first day of school appearing normal, then he can make it through the first week Once a week of appearing normal passes, he ll be able to begin the next week.Even though Karl has plans to work around his known obstacles, he has several other hurdles to overcome Is the best friend he was going to avoid actually avoiding him And what about the new girl The one whose mom likes to party with his Will Karl be able to shed his madman reputation And how important is it to appear normal Read TALES OF THE MADMAN UNDERGROUND and experience six days of Karl s life in 1973 It ll be a trip. *Download Book ✐ Tales of the Madman Underground: An Historical Romance 1973 ⇞ Wednesday, September , 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 Tired of his affiliation with the madmen, a group of students bound together during the school year by their shared visits to the school psychologist, Karl Shoemaker starts his senior year by deploying operation be f ing normal Yet try as he may to break from the madmen and distance himself from their shared injustices, he is just too good of a friend He also can t escape his own rap as possibly psychopathic, after a misunderstanding involving the death of one or cats Told over six days in September 1973, Tales of the Madman Underground is an insightful, poignant and funny novel led by the completely engaging, wholly original character of Karl Popular he is not, but he is quirky, caring, and the hardest working high school senior you ve ever met Secondary characters, especially Karl s alcoholic Mom, are equally well developed, and the dialog is concurrently heartbreaking and hilarious At than 500 pages, this young adult novel will not fly off the shelves, but any reader looking for a likeable, believable hero to root for should run, not walk, to get a copy of this book Best for older high school to adult readers. I readTales of the Madman Undergroundduring a Printz Award alumni binge that includedKit s Wilderness, American Born ChineseandIn Darkness Madmanwas possibly the wordiest YA novel I ve read so far, but I never tired of itMadmanis set in small town Ohio in 1973, and it s the first YA I ve read that was structured as a few sequential days in the everyday life of the protagonist, wake to sleep Five days of home, work, school and social life at the very start of protag Karl Shoemaker s senior year in high school.At home, Karl is the adult His hardcore alcoholic mom is chronically unemployed and a hoarder of cats Mom has a string of boyfriends and funds most of her adventures by stealing cash from various stashes Karl attempts to hide around the house Author John Barnes manages to humanize the mom character just enough with genuine affection and comic New Age pursuits to keep her from being a cartoonish YA parent villain.The work element was the most interesting part to me Karl has something like five jobs He cleans the McDonald s after close each night, he helps this middle aged racist lech guy deliver furniture, he does odd jobs for an old lady, et al Every one of these weaves in and out of the overall plot.Then school, where the Madman Underground comes into play The MU is a weekly therapy session gathering of all the school s most troubled kids There s Paul, best friend and male hustler Bonny, who also escapes into workaholism Cheryl, popular hottie Darla, slutty hottie Squid, crazy jock bully Danny, good ole boy farm kid jock And Marti, brand new girl wisely, Barnes allows us to absorb much of the huge chunk of expository information through the filter of it being delivered to Marti and the inevitable new therapist.These kids all hang out together outside of school, too Being Madmen, they re just as familiar with substance abuse, being locked out of the house, having parents beat the shit out of them and each other, being molested, et al, as most of the other kids are with, say, their locker combinations The characters in the book are easy to distinguish, and there aren t too many Really, the only flaw I noticed in depicting these kids was that some of their long, monologue heavy conversations didn t read very authentically.Author John Barnes has carved out a decades deep career writing sci fi books for adultsMadman Undergroundwas his first foray into YA It seems like it probably started life as a memoir and then blew up into its current incarnation, where everydayness and major life altering events coexist side by side I enjoyed this immensely, and so did the author of this 2009 review in the LA Times that s way better than the one I just wrote.