By John Barnes
Rating: 4 1/4 stars
Karl Shoemaker goes into the first day of senior year with a goal: Operation Be F---ing Normal. For the first time ever, he wants to get out of the therapy group he has to attend every week and just be a normal kid. Forget about the 4 jobs he works, his alcoholic promiscuous mother, his house filled with a dozen or so cats, his dead father, and the nowhere town of Lightsburg, Ohio. But actually avoiding his best friend Paul, also one of the Madmen (their nickname for the therapy group), is more painful than he would like. Then new girl Marti joins the group and chooses Karl to let her know what is what in Small Town, USA and as he recounts stories of the Madmen, Karl begins to think some things about belonging to the group aren't quite so bad. On these first six days of the new school year, Karl will have more happen to him than might happen to the rest of us in a year, but through it all, Karl realizes there are more important things than just being normal. At times achingly painful and at others rolling on the floor funny, you can't help but like Karl and many (although not all) of his Madmen friends. There's some disturbing issues brought up as well as sex, drugs and smoking for those who don't like that kind of thing. But it is also a fast-moving read that propels itself along to a finish that can't be called happy but it can be called hopeful. Guys will especially like this book, but girls will be glad to have read it, too. Thumbs up!