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The Good Times Are Killing Me Paperback – March 30, 1999
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Readers of alternative weeklies will be familiar with Lynda Barry's work from her long-running comic strip, Ernie Pook's Comeek. Similarly, The Good Times Are Killing Me focuses on the surprisingly complex emotional world of children. It is the story of a neighborhood going through the throes of integration and white flight as seen through the eyes of young Edna Arkins. Edna forms an unlikely friendship with Bonna Willis, a girl with a talent for "ass beating." Edna is white and Bonna is black, and from the start there are pressures from both sides against their friendship. As always, Barry is an impeccable observer of the way kids think and talk--several passages are certain to bring memories of intense schoolyard negotiations rushing back. Barry's artwork comes into play as well--each chapter is punctuated with slightly more painterly versions of her characteristically raw drawing style. By turns funny and moving, The Good Times Are Killing Me is an immensely satisfying read. --Ali Davis
From Publishers Weekly
Edna Arkins, the young white narrator of this first novel, describes her coming of age in a racially mixed neighborhood and her friendship with Bonna Willis, a black girl. Their camaraderie is against "the rules" imposed by others but survives anyway. The novel, written as a series of vignettes, evokes memories of adolescence that many will probably share: the loneliness, the dares, the music lessons, the threats. The reader also catches a glimpse of Edna's family with all their idiosyncrasies. Her cousin Steve, for example, always repeats a particular menacing phrase every time he is alone with her and, as Edna says, "probably always will . . . even when we are both as old and shriveled up as two ancient pieces of gum stuck under a chair." Barry conveys the anguish and confusion of youth discovering that society is riddled with prejudice, and her light touch is balanced by respect for her characters and their problems. The book also includes 18 richly colored illustrations by the author, a syndicated cartoonist.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
This book is wonderful. Lynda Barry has a way of writing from the perspective of a child that is astounding. Her novels seem so real, so autobiographical that I am not sure how much of The Good Times Are Killing Me is even fiction at all.
I loved the spirituality, the music, the warmth and the honesty of Lynda's story. I couldn't put it down. It's very short and perfectly suitable for young people. However, I do not believe it to be best for young people. I don't know if they'll appreciate the story as much as an adult would. I think that because the protagonist is young, and because the story is about race and school and growing up, people want it to be a book for young readers. I'm just not so sure. I don't think there is ANYTHING in here that is inappropriate or bad for younger readers, I just don't think they'd appreciate it as much as an adult would.
Of course, I wouldn't use it if it weren't a wonderful novel as well. It is. The story that is told is gripping, and my students love reading it.
I believe this book should be a part of English curriculum in junior high schools.