Hairstyles of the Damned

( 72 )

Overview

Hairstyles is an honest 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.

Joe Meno won the 2003 Nelson Algren Literary Award and is the author of Tender as Hellfire (St. Martin’s, 1999) and How the Hula Girl Sings (HarperCollins, 2001). His online...

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Overview

Hairstyles is an honest 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.

Joe Meno won the 2003 Nelson Algren Literary Award and is the author of Tender as Hellfire (St. Martin’s, 1999) and How the Hula Girl Sings (HarperCollins, 2001). His online fictional serial, The Secret Hand, is published through Playboy Magazine. His short fiction has been published in TriQuarterly, Bridge, Other Voices Washington Square, and has been broadcast on National Public Radio. He lives in Chicago, and he is a columnist for Punk Planet magazine.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
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Brian Oswald is an oddly endearing, conflicted Chicago high school student, obsessed with hard rock and his best friend, a pink-haired punk named Gretchen. Brian frets over his attraction to Gretchen; after all, she's overweight, belligerent, and prone to fistfights. Like all teenagers, Brian struggles with his identity. A bit of an outcast, he uses this condition to assess the social options available to him at his parochial school. Quiet, introspective Brian identifies best with the punks, even if he doesn't quite join their ranks. But his emotional honesty allows him to see clearly behind their arrogant posturing a very real anger and a true love of music: "When everything else was wrong, [the music] made it right."

Hairstyles of the Damned is a richly detailed, deeply evocative account of those painfully remembered teenage years -- a time of roller-coaster emotions, when nearly every insignificant slight feels like a body slam. Meno's prose pulls no punches. His language is raunchy, direct from the mouths of punks, and pungently recalls American adolescence in the '90s as a time so raw that readers will cringe at its veracity, fictional though his account may be. Meno's snapshot of the past is so achingly lucid, so compelling, and so alive, that readers will not only see it but will smell it, taste it, and feel it as well. (Holiday 2004 Selection)

Publishers Weekly
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. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
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 Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781888451702
  • Publisher: Akashic Books
  • Publication date: 9/15/2004
  • Series: Punk Planet Books Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 290
  • Sales rank: 384,776
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


Joe Meno is the best-selling author of the novels Hairstyles of the Damned, The Boy Detective Fails, How the Hula Girl Sings, and Tender As Hellfire. He was the winner of the 2003 Nelson Algren Award for short fiction and is a professor of creative writing at Columbia College Chicago.
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Read an Excerpt

The other problem I had was that I was falling in love with my best friend, Gretchen, who I thought the rest of the world considered fat. We were in her crappy car and singing, and at the end of the song, "White Riot," the one by the Clash, I realized, by the way I was watching her mouth pucker and smile and her eyes blink and wink, we were way more than friends, at least to me. I looked over at Gretchen driving and she was starting to sing the next song, "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" by the Clash again, and I said, "I love driving around with you, Gretchen," but because the radio was so loud, all she could do was see my mouth move.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 72 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(44)

4 Star

(17)

3 Star

(8)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 72 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Darcus @ Starcrossed

    I loved this book. It had me interested from the very first page. It's a different type of book than I would normally read, but hey, sometimes when you read out of your comfort zone, you find awesome books! This was definitely one of those cases. I'm sad that I borrowed this novel from a friend my mine and my husbands. I may possibly buy this book in the future.

    Hairstyles of the Damned is an honest, real look at adolecense and the trials and tribulations that a teenager goes through in daily life. It is set in the early 1990's, which is a neat setting as we get to learn more about teen life and the thinkings of a lost kid finding his way through school, music, and the punk scene.

    The characters in the novel, mainly Brian Oswald, are true representations of what teenagers are like, how they think, speak, and act. Nothing is held back from the readers. The insecurities, embarrassing thoughts, shallow-ness, and hurt, real thoughts, not buttered-up images of what a teenager should be like you would normally read. It's honest and straight forward on how teenagers reallly are, have always been, and will always be.

    There's a lot questionable situations in this novel, a lot of language, and more than enough of sexual confrontation. Some may see that as a bad thing, but for what this novel stands for, it really works. I didn't mind all the bad things because it was true. That's how human beings are, even if we don't want to always admit it.

    This book is a good read for any of you that want a real, honest, raw look at young adult life.

    Also, on a final note, I've seen some things around the internet that imply that Hairstyles of the Damned is being made into a movie. This is definitely a movie that I would watch and I will update in the future if I find any new information on this.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2012

    Amazing!!!!

    Speechless-- most amazing book ive ever read!!!! LOVED the ending, when Brian started to stick up for himself and how he changed completely from being the follower to confident and careless! I would totally recommend this book to a high schooler who have difficulty fitting in with others. What i've learned from this book is -- you shouldn't care what others think of you.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    hairstyles of the damned = <3

    If you loved the perks of being a wallflower then you will love this. It's a really fun book to read and I absolutely love the way that Brian (the main character) wrote. The music in this book is also very fun. In the end you find out how fake everybody in high school is. Buy this book immediately...it wont let you down.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2010

    Great book!

    This book was awesome. Joe Meno did a great job showing the life of a teenager living in the south suburbs of Chicago. When I was reading this book I could not put it down. It has short chapters which make the book not drag on at all. Actually living in the suburbs of Chicago makes reading this book that much better because he talks about a lot of places that I recognize. The actual writing style that Joe Meno writes with is great. I'm 18 years old and my friends talk just like Brian and his friends do. You really get the feel of the teenager atmosphere. The book is about Brian's junior year in high school and how he is maturing and turning into an adult. He lives the life of a normal teen. He goes to parties, concerts, just hangs out with his friends. They drink and smoke pot but that's what happens in high school. Brian really likes his best friend Gretchen, but she doesn't know that he likes her. He struggles with this and the book shows his experiences and what happens. Brian's parents are going through a divorce so it shows how his home life is changing and just his life in general. The book has some chapters that are what Brain writes in his notebook during school. These chapters really show brains personality. It's actually "from" his notebook so it is in Brian's handwriting and all. The book really gets into the music Brian listens to. I love music so just the fact that Brian enjoys music and goes to concerts is really cool. Over all this was an amazing book. I did not want to put it down when I read it. As I teenager I could really relate to how Brian felt.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2007

    awsome!!!

    This book was the best book I have read in a long time. I love the style of writing that Joe Meno uses. You actually feel like you are there with Brian. He speaks like every teenager does when there out with there friends. Brains life is similar to most teens. He goes out partying. He thinks about girls all the time. He likes his best friend. He also has some trebles along the way that he has to deal with. He wants to get a job so he could buy a car so the girls will notice. He also has to deal with his parents not getting along so well. Then there are his friends. One of which he is practically in love with and the ones that smoke pot. This book is about coming of age and him just trying to find himself. So he does all these random crazy things just like every teenager would. It is really cool because I live around the area where the book takes place. I like how I know where there talking about and have a picture in my head of where there are. Brian makes for the perfect teenager. Everybody wants to fit in and be cool but then you find out that when you are being your self you will have the most fun in life. I think that anyone who as every heard of this book should read it right away. It kind of make you feel like you are a teen again. Now if only my life was this interesting.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2006

    The perfect book for every hardcore kid

    This book is the greatest ever. Once you have picked it up,you cant let it go. Seriously. Its a book you'll fall in love with. If I could, I would give this book 10 stars. Its everything you want in a book, funnyness, love, and all that good stuff in high school.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 24, 2012

    It was what I wish my high school life was like now. Instead of

    It was what I wish my high school life was like now. Instead of te of what it was.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 19, 2012

    I love this book. If you were a punk or hc kid in the late '80'

    I love this book. If you were a punk or hc kid in the late '80's or early '90's, this book will speak to you.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 22, 2014

    If you have been through the struggle of teenage years or are cu

    If you have been through the struggle of teenage years or are currently fighting through them, you will probably love this book.  Following the plights of young Brian Oswald as he tries to survive high school in the early 90's you can learn a lot.  Not only does this book offer great criticism to the current decaying state of what is the nuclear family and youth, it allows the reader to feel less alone in their own struggles. I don't feel like this book is one of those books about teens that only girls would appreciate and think guys should definitely read it.  I mean if you like realistic fiction and can handle the whining of teenagers, this is definitely the book for you.  Over all it was a good book and should be read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Unique and hilarious!

    This book is wonderfully relatable and laugh out loud funny. The main character, Brian, is hopelessly in love with his best friend, Gretchen, and is too much of a wuss to do anything about it. The story follows their adventures, which are uneventful but completely entertaining. I would recommend this book to anybody who needs a good laugh about life.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2007

    This book was perfect!

    If you've read The Perks of Being a Wallflower and liked it, then you'd love this book. It's a pretty big book with short chapters and two parts. Either way I honestly couldn't put it down. I found myself feeling apart of his life and missing being included in everything going on when I finished it!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2007

    AMAZING!

    Okay, this book is simply remarkable! I just couldn't put it down. I like how the chapters were short. I also like how Joe Meno relates this book to people our age 'teenagers' and I love music and this was great for my interests. Overall, this is an excellent book and I enjoyed it and you will too :'

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2007

    Absoulutely outstanding!!

    I COULD NOT put this book down. I honestly had an addiction to this book. i really liked how there was always something happeneing. this is a great teen rebles book. it really makes me sad that this is fiction cause i think it would be Great to meet Brain and Gretchin. LOVED THIS BOOK.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2007

    Addictive

    I found myself hating every single character and thinking what a bunch of crappy people they all were, but I didn't care. I just kept on reading it. Because, I'm not going to lie, it was an excellent book. I despised Gretchen for the careless way she treated Brian, and I hated Brian for taking it. It was enfuriating and wonderful. Every single minute of it. I saw a definate transformation in Brian and I was so proud of what he'd gone through, really.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2007

    This book is an Amazing book!!!

    It is the true struggle of highschool and teens, not only boys but girls.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2006

    Good Book

    I really liked this book. I liked the fact that the chapters were short, so it made it a quicker read. I love any book that is about music.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2006

    Pretty much amazing.

    I'm not really a fan of general, teen fiction, but Hairstyles of the Damned was awesome. It was hiliarious and witty. It actually seemed like it was coming from a teenager. There was nothing fake there. I found so many things in common with the main characters. I loved it. I definitely recommend it for any older teenager thats into realistic type fiction.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2006

    Loved this

    i really loved this book. The way it actually made you get into the kids mind and way and i guess reasons why he did and thought the things he did and to just see him change. I just reall loved this Book

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2006

    really gets adolescent angst

    It was crazy how easy it was to identify with the misfit main character / narrator of this book. Even though are lives are pretty different, I completely identified with his feelings of lonliness and akwardness. I loved how the narration was just like he was talking to you. Sentences were long and drawn out. All the music references were fantanstic, because if you knew the songs then it was almost like you could have a soundtrack in your head while you read. Brian Oswald's search for love, friendship and acceptance in this novel hit really close to home and I would reccomend it to anyone who enjoys an entertaining read about real life.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2006

    A BOOK OF MY LIFE!!!!!!

    This whole book was so great! I mean Gretchen and Kim were so awesome and reminded of my best friend and me. Brian was sort of my least favorite person which is a sad irony because I loved the book and he was sort of the main character but I did like him sometimes. I didn't follow how he could go from being really hard-core to being a little punk kid with a shaved head? But people change and I guess I sort of understand that because I sort of want to change sometimes too but you can't change who you are and I don't understand and kind of want to know, how he could do that?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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