Cover image for Hairstyles of the damned
Hairstyles of the damned
Meno, Joe.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chicago : Punk Planet Books ; New York : Akashic Books, [2004]

Physical Description:
270 pages ; 20 cm
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.9 14.0 86116.
Format :


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FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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Included in ''s "These 17 Music-Themed YA Books Could Be Your Life"

A selection of the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Program.

"Meno gives his proverbial coming-of-age tale a punk-rock edge, as seventeen-year-old Chicagoan Brian Oswald tries to land his first girlfriend...Meno ably explores Brian''s emotional uncertainty and his poignant youthful search for meaning...His gabby, heartfelt, and utterly believable take on adolescence strikes a winning chord."
-- Publishers Weekly

"A funny, hard-rocking first-person tale of teenage angst and discovery."
-- Booklist

"Captures the loose, fun, recklessness of midwestern punk."

"Captures both the sweetness and sting of adolescence with unflinching honesty."
-- Entertainment Weekly

"Joe Meno writes with the energy, honesty, and emotional impact of the best punk rock. From the opening sentence to the very last word, Hairstyles of the Damned held me in his grip."
-- Jim DeRogatis , pop music critic, Chicago Sun-Times

"The most authentic young voice since J.D. Salinger''s Holden Caulfield...A darn good book."
-- Daily Southtown

"Sensitive, well-observed, often laugh-out-loud funny...You won''t regret a moment of the journey."
-- Chicago Tribune

"Meno is a romantic at heart. Not the greeting card kind, or the Harlequin paperback version, but the type who thinks, deep down, that things matter, that art can change lives."
-- Elgin Courier News

"Funny and charming and sad and real. The adults are sparingly yet poignantly drawn, especially the fathers, who slip through without saying much but make a profound impression."
-- Chicago Journal

"Underneath his angst, Brian, the narrator of Hairstyles of the Damned , possesses a disarming sense of compassion which allows him to worm his way into the reader''s heart. It is this simple contradiction that makes Meno''s portrait of adolescence so convincing: He has dug up and displayed for us the secret paradox of the teenage years, the desire to belong pitted against the need for individuality--a constant clash of hate and love."

"Joe Meno knows Chicago''s south side the way Jane Goodall knew chimps and apes--which is to say, he really knows it. He also knows about the early ''90s, punk rock, and awkward adolescence. Best of all, he knows the value of entertainment. Hairstyles of the Damned is proof positive."
-- John McNally , author of The Book of Ralph

"Filled with references to dozens of bands and mix-tape set lists, the book''s heart and soul is driven by a teenager''s life-changing discovery of punk''s social and political message...Meno''s alter ego, Brian Oswald, is a modern-day Holden Caulfield...It''s a funny, sweet, and, at times, hard-hitting story with a punk vibe."
-- Mary Houlihan , Chicago Sun-Times

"Meno''s language is rhythmic and honest, expressing things proper English never could. And you''ve got to hand it to the author, who pulled off a very good trick: The book is punk rock. It''s not just punk rock. It''s not just about punk rock; it embodies the idea of punk rock; it embodies the idea of punk--it''s pissed off at authority, it won''t groom itself properly, and it irritates. Yet its rebellious spirit is inspiring and right on the mark."
-- SF Weekly

Hairstyles of the Damned is the debut novel of our Punk Planet Books imprint, which originates from Punk Planet magazine.

Hairstyles of the Damned is an honest, true-life depiction of growing up punk on Chicago''s south side: a study in the demons of racial intolerance, Catholic school conformism, and class repression. It is the story of the riotous exploits of Brian, a high school burnout, and his best friend, Gretchen, a punk rock girl fond of brawling. Based on the actual events surrounding a Chicago high school''s segregated prom, this work of fiction unflinchingly pursues the truth in discovering what it means to be your own person.

Author Notes

Joe Meno is a fiction writer and playwright who lives in Chicago. He is a winner of the Nelson Algren Literary Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Great Lakes Book Award, and was a finalist for the Story Prize. He is the author of multiple novels and short story collections including Hairstyles of the Damned , The Great Perhaps , How the Hula Girl Sings , The Boy Detective Fails , Tender as Hellfire , Demons in the Spring , and Office Girl . His short fiction has been published in One Story , McSweeney's , Swink , LIT , TriQuarterly , Other Voices , Gulf Coast , and broadcast on NPR. His nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times and Chicago Magazine . He is an associate professor in the Fiction Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Meno's third novel is a funny, hard-rocking first-person tale of teenage angst and discovery. Brian, a reluctant junior in a Catholic high school on the Far South Side of Chicago, and his best friend, Gretchen, with whom he is falling in love, and who outweighs him and is way tougher and hipper (she has dyed her hair pink), spend a lot of time driving around and listening to music. It's 1990, Gretchen's mother is dead, Brian's folks are estranged, and punk rock is their gospel. After writing about a 10-year-old in Tender as Hellfire (1999) and an ex-con in How the Hula Girl Sings (2001), Meno now revels in the massive confusion and helpless bravado of adolescence as he portrays misfit teens dismayed by adult misery, weirded out by their suddenly alien bodies, and angry over racism and class prejudice. This is all worthy if familiar stuff, and although Meno fails to dig deeply, he does write with verve and will entertain readers who find tales of teen misadventure and rock and roll irresistible. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Meno (How the Hula Girl Sings) gives his proverbial coming-of-age tale a punk-rock edge, as 17-year-old Chicagoan Brian Oswald tries to land his first girlfriend and make it through high school. Brian loves video games, metal music and his best friend, Gretchen, an overweight, foul-mouthed, pink-haired badass famous for beating up other girls. Gretchen, meanwhile, loves the Ramones and the Clash and 26-year-old "white power thug" Tony Degan. Gretchen keeps Brian at bay even as their friendship starts to bloom into a romance, forcing him to find comfort with the fetching but slatternly Dorie. Typical adolescent drama reigns: Brian's parents are having marital problems, he needs money to buy wheels ("I needed a van because, like Mike always said, guys with vans always got the most trim, after the guys who could grow mustaches"), he experiments with sex and vandalism. Meno ably explores Brian's emotional uncertainty and his poignant youthful search for meaning, both in music and in his on-again, off-again situation with Gretchen; his gabby, heartfelt and utterly believable take on adolescence strikes a winning chord. Meno also deals honestly with teenage violence-though Gretchen's fights have a certain slapstick quality, Brian's occasional bouts of anger and destruction seem very real. He's a sympathetic narrator and a prime example of awkward adolescence, even if he doesn't have much of a plot crafted around him. Author tour. (Sept.) Forecast: This B&N Discover pick will appeal to alterna-adolescents and adults alike. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-Set in Chicago's South Side in the early 1990s, this novel follows a year in the life of high school student Brian Oswald. His friend Gretchen, a heavyset, fight-provoking, punk-music fan, travels with him through the adolescent world of shopping malls, music stores, and suburban streets. And Brian is madly in love with her. Unfortunately, Gretchen loves Tony, a 20-something white-power hooligan who hangs out in arcades to pick up impressionable high school girls. Brian spends the first half of the book trying to build up enough courage to ask Gretchen out. When he makes his feelings known, their relationship is severed. For a time, he moves on and away from her. Trouble between his parents and issues of peer pressure flesh out the skeleton of this work. Written as a first-person narrative, the novel brings Brian to life by making full use of those colorful expletives and sexual jokes that high school boys love so much. The teen is not a nerd or a jock, but lives in a space between those stereotypes. Yet he struggles desperately to find his niche, circulating from cliques as diverse as the D&D geeks to the hyper-violent skinheads. Meno plays with music in a fashion reminiscent of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity (Penguin, 1996). The story winds its way back to Gretchen, who inadvertently leads Brian to realize that punk, too, is its own form of a fabricated identity. In the end he learns that he is Brian Oswald-and he's okay with that.-Matthew L. Moffett, Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.