Hairstyles of the Damned

Hairstyles of the Damned

4.4 73
by Joe Meno

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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…  See more details below


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."

"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.

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Editorial Reviews
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
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.
From the Publisher

"This book is hella good. Joe Meno manages to sink into the teenage-outcast experience, challenge segregation, and provide step-by-step instructions on dyeing hair pink in this realistic account of finding your identity. After reading Hairstyles of the Damned, I'm glad I'm not in high school anymore."
--Amy Schroeder, Venus magazine

"Hairstyles of the Damned is observational comedy of the best kind, each glittering small detail offering up a wave of memories for anyone alive in the latter part of the previous century. Did you imagine you had forgotten the smell of arcades, the allure of muscle cars, the dress codes and emotional rebellions, the cringing horror of adolescence? Beware: Joe Meno can make you remember."

"What makes Hairstyles of the Damned compelling is Meno's ability to create compelling is Meno's ability to create the rhythm of teen-speak without pandering, and his ability to infuse the story with pop-culture references. A good read for those wanting to remember their youthful mischief."

"Meno's recounting of first concerts, first loves, and the first tragedies of adolescence are awesomely paired with the heavy backbeat of late-'80s subculture. The contagious foot tapping that is symptomatic of a good record is the same energy that drives you as you follow Meno's narrative."

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Product Details

Akashic Books
Publication date:
Punk Planet Books
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
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File size:
4 MB

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.

Meet the Author

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.

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Hairstyles of the Damned 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 73 reviews.
StarcrossedReviews More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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 wont let you down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Adults no unless went to school in chicago and can pick out all the errors went to h s lakeview try studs turkels books instead
Mariah-Snellings More than 1 year ago
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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