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The Good Times Are Killing Me Paperback – March 30, 1999

4.7 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Realistic fiction for tweens
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 1250L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Sasquatch Books; Reprint edition (March 30, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 157061105X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570611056
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #337,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on September 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is the book that got me started on my Lynda Barry addiction. I stumbled on to this book by fortuitous accident. It's brilliant. It is simple in its style with a reach deep into the heart of complex feelings and issues. While not as riveting as Cruddy, it is more moving and realistic. I hope Lynda Barry continues to produce work of this quality. One Hundred Demons is also extremely good. Her fiction is great literature on a transcendent level.
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By A Customer on May 10, 1999
Format: Paperback
I love every word of this story. In the simplest language, with the most colorful, poignant vignettes, I saw my hysterically funny yet bittersweet childhood told back to me. I think Lynda Barry is a genius.
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Format: Paperback
I recently mailed a box of books to a friend of mine and had wanted him to read this, so it was one of the first books I placed in the box. When I went to ship the box, I pulled it out while waiting in line at the post office. I simply couldn't part with it. It's not my favorite novel. It's not even my favorite Lynda Barry novel. But I wasn't as ready to give it up as I had thought. I had an emotional reaction I did not expect, as I got closer to the counter. My friend will have to wait.

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.
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Not only do I love Lynda Barry's ability to perfectly express what it felt like to be a child, this book was personally very moving for me. The narrator's feelings about music, singing, and her observations of the world around her spoke directly to me.
I believe this book should be a part of English curriculum in junior high schools.
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Format: Paperback
Barry just knows how to get into the psyche of kids, adolescents, anyone under the age of 17, it seems. This book is a quick read, but a delicious one. Barry writes her characters' voices in as understated and realistic pieces of life, and she does what she's so good at doing: she puts readers in a space in which they're none too comfortable, and yet they can't seem to shake the familiar feelings of their own childhood horrors and experiences. This book is unsettling and slightly worrisome, and also truthful and wonderful, just as children often are.
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I teach a course on teaching music for children (at the college level). I use this book to get students thinking about the deep ways that music impacts our lives. Situations from family to school music, private to public, and informal to formal are all present, and Barry's wonderful attention to detail brings each to life in a way that make my students talkative.

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.
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By A Customer on June 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
Ms. Barry returns to her whimsical story-telling style with this book. Reminiscent of her books "The Fun House" and "Come Over, Come Over" (which are in cartoon strip style), this book captures the wonderful and sad experiences of a slightly lower-class childhood, told from the honest perspective of a child's eyes. It lacked a bit of the edge of her animated works, but is still delightful in its story-telling. A must have for any serious Lynda Barry fan.
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Format: Paperback
Lynda Barry captures the joys, fears, chills and spills of growing up in this effortlessly charming collection of memories and stories, accompanied by her paintings and art work of singers and musicians. It's a very special book and one that I return to time and time again.
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