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Hairstyles of the Damned

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  4,593 ratings  ·  417 reviews
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.
Paperback, 270 pages
Published September 1st 2004 by Akashic Books/Punk Planet Books (first published January 1st 2004)
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Hairstyles of the Damned by Joe MenoBeige by Cecil CastellucciI Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie KuehnertThe Plain Janes by Cecil CastellucciFat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going
Best YA books with punk rock characters
1st out of 35 books — 47 voters
A Masque of Infamy by Kelly DessaintNick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel CohnHairstyles of the Damned by Joe MenoDouble Duce by Aaron CometbusBurn Collector by Al Burian
punk rock novels
3rd out of 45 books — 37 voters

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Community Reviews

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"Hairstyles of the Damned" is about Brian Oswald, a guy in high school who is growing up punk. At first he's a sort of needy and whiny character who is in love with his best friend, but as time passes in his harsh high school he must learn to be tough and act like a punk. He meets people, does drugs, listen to cool punk music, and gets a girlfriend or two along the way.

Um, yeah. I kinda strongly disliked this book, :/. I mean it wasn't the worst thing ever but I felt like I could have just used
I really enjoyed Meno's Boy Detective Fails to the point where I couldn't imagine that a book about growing up as an awkward punk in Chicago in 1990 would actually be a young adult novel. Turns out it is, demonstrating a lot of the simple moralising that exemplifies the way adults write for teenagers in todays book market. Meh. There's a lot of great observations that took me back to that time in my life when I was an awkward teenage punk in England but really, what's here for an adult? At times ...more
Jason Pettus
(My full review of this book is much longer than GoodReads' word-count limits. Find the entire essay at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [].)

So a big confession before anything else -- that I went into this book really wanting to like author Joe Meno. And of course part of why I want to like him is because he's a Chicago writer, one of the more high-profile writers in Chicago right now in fact, who has won the prestigious Nelson Algren award in the past and who us
Earlier this year, I decided to stop buying books. Instead, I would check them out of the library and only buy copies of the ones I really loved. But this book and its intriguing title made me break that rule. I read the Amazon excerpt and really thought I would like it, but the library didn’t carry it. So… I went to Barnes & Noble and read even more of it. I liked the beginning so much that I had visions of it becoming My New Favorite Thing. I decided to take a chance and buy it.

I paid goo
"We're not the first, I hope we're not the last. 'Cause I know we're all heading for that adult crash. The time is so little, the time belongs to us. Why is everybody in such a fucking rush?
Make do with what you have. Take what you can get. Pay no mind to us. We're just a minor threat. We're just a minor threat.

Ahh.. sweet memories of stomping around my room raging (as loud as a 15 year old can rage in suburbia without upsetting the ‘rents) Good times. Good times.

Joe Meno has got it down. He’s i
So, hmm. Like I said down there in the comments chat I had with Samara, it's a really really good thing I was already in love with Joe Meno from reading The Boy Detective Fails and Demons in the Spring, because this book really wasn't that great. I mean, it was fine, and maybe it was a little more groundbreaking when it came out, but by now it's just kind of a stale / predictable coming-of-age story. It felt very real, and I believed in the characters and the plot, but that's because they're the ...more
Any book that assaults your dad with Misfits lyrics and pranks the school bully with photos of kitty cats with X's on their eyes and pleas to be kind because "everytime you're mean one of us dies" is pretty much one of the greatest punk high school kid coming of age stories ever.... "I ain't no Goddamn son of a bitch!"
May 10, 2015 Leo rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: ya-lit
Unlike most of the other reviewers, I had not heard of this book or Mr. Meno before, and had no expectations going into it.

What I deem to be positive about this book are its attention to racial tension in the main character's environment, its lack of sugarcoating of what teenage kids are really like: full of mistakes, pettiness, and insensitivity towards others visibly portrayed through the uses of non-PC words many teenagers often utter ("gay," "retarded," "faggot," "slut," "fatty," etc.), and
Oct 19, 2007 Rose rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: punks!
damn! i really like this book. a sort-of love story from the pov of a sort of metalhead-punk rock boy at a catholic boys school, the 'fat' girl he's in love with, his assorted friends getting high and drinking shitty beer in the basement, divorcing parents, and generally coming of age.
there are two moments that I especially love, his describing a girl as something like 'mean and sour looking, like she'd just make out with you because she's bored' and his feeling after going to his first small-c
Dec 15, 2008 Amanda rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: angsty folk
Recommended to Amanda by: gibbie
Shelves: read-in-2008
For being written by a creative writing professor, this book is overwhelmingly stereotypical. The rebel girl who dyes her hair pink; the twenty-something who can't get away from high school; the boy with his constant erections and lascivious thoughts who really just wants some confidence. And everyone hates their parents (who likewise have stereotypical issues). While I agree that we all go through a lot of the same things in adolescence, sometimes I just wanted to slap the narrator and yell ge ...more
Hannah  Messler
Imogen liked it so I liked it (coz I am a convictionless little bastard most of the time when it comes to Art and can easily be swayed in any ol' goddamn direction or other by any ol' goddamn random-ass espousal or denunciation from someone I love or loath). But I think I wouldn't have otherwise. Mainly coz of how I am also MEAN and tend to have the least room in my heart for that which reminds me most ably of myself.

Certainly there were parts where the narrator's voice was angsty in pretty inte
I truly wanted to love this book because I read The Boy Detective Fails Again by Meno first. I adore that book--it's one of my favorites. This one was disappointing, to say the least.

The first 200 pages were filled with a lot of teenage-boy angst and the nothing that is a high schooler's life. Many of my favorite books are books within which nothing really happens, so this wouldn't have phased me if the "nothing" that happened actually seemed to be moving toward "something," or seemed to be spea
I have the weirdest sensation that I’ve already read this…This was entertaining and kind of fluffy high school relationship stuff. You’ve seen all of these characters before, and they’re not all that distinguished here, but Joe Meno does really have the language down, and the sense of time. If you grew up in that era, you’ll feel right at home…and maybe anyone growing up at all would be able to relate to the constant flow of profanity that doesn’t even have any real purpose except to pepper your ...more
Jan 26, 2012 Lisa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: y-a
I read this book a few years ago. I remember loving it. I want to re-read it someday but at the moment, my copy is back in Canada. :(

“‘You never know. That’s the trick, Brian. You never know which times are going to be important until later.’
‘Yeah,’ I said, feeling more weird each fucking minute. ‘I guess.’
‘That’s why you shouldn’t worry. You should just be happy when you can.’
‘That sounds good, Mr. D.,’ I said. ‘Listen, I think I’m gonna head home. I’ll call Gretchen later.’
‘Brian?’ Mr. D. whi
Vienna X
Sep 14, 2007 Vienna X rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Punk-rock misfits who don't give you the juicy details
I enjoyed reading this book, but it felt a little simplistic to me. Meno uses language throughout that is very typical of a teenager (like, I mean, maybe, etc) which is fine and doesn’t really bother me but I could see some people getting annoyed. It’s a definite voice technique and if you stripped that away, what would you have? But I like the way the chapters are very short and just move from scene to scene. And the kid is overall very likable. And there’s some good points to be made about tee ...more
Jennifer A.M.
This is a punk rock coming of age story about a shy high school junior named Brian Oswald with a crummy home life who is in love with (or thinks he is in love with) his best friend Gretchen, who continuously pines for a skinhead, white- power 20-something named Tony Degan. Gretchen is not stupid or racist, she also comes from a messed up home life. Her mother has died before the book begins and she is desperately looking for someone to love her and see her and pay attention to her. Brian's feeli ...more
Jason Jordan
People know Meno. With his hands in many cookie jars, however, individuals have become acquainted with him through various outlets. After all, he's unleashed three novels – with the fourth on its way – as well as contributed to other publications such as Punk Planet, Sleepwalk, and Bail. But, perhaps Meno's true popularity began to soar due, in part, to 2004's Hairstyles of the Damned (Punk Planet Books), which proves to be both amusing and endearing....

Read the rest in the October 2005 issue of
Feb 28, 2011 Leah rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Leah by: Morgan Summers
I read this book a couple of years ago. To be honest, the only reason that I read it was because it was about people who went to the Catholic schools in my area (Brother Rice, Mother MacAuley, Queen of Peace, St. Lawrence), including my high school (even though QoP is only very briefly mentioned). I thought that it was an okay book. I'm glad, though, that I borrowed it from my friend (she rec'd it to me) and didn't waste my money buying it since I have no desire to read it ever again. As the tit ...more
Amanda Fewster
This is a great book to read for highschool students. It really adresses a lot of difficulties adolescents have to endure throughout their highschool years. It covers everything from developing a taste in music of your own to being in love with a best friend that you can't confess your love to. The language usage is young and raw, making it all the easier to get lost in the world of a punk adolescent figuring out his life step by step. I became very inspired from several kep parts in this story ...more
Meno writes like a punk, and I mean that in a good way. He writes with a cutting attitude, direct and profane. At first, I was put off by his style and the meandering story, but the book grew on me, and I ended up liking it quite a bit. It's basically a first-person coming-of-age story, full of all the angst that comes along with directionless teenage years. The plot is thin, but the dysfunctional protagonist pulls you in and along as he tries to figure out what life is all about. If you don't m ...more
Hairstyles of the Damned is about punk music from the 1970s and ’80s, featuring teens in the early ’90s, written by Joe Meno in the mid-00s, and read by me in 2015. Whereas our protagonist Brian Oswald languishes over what tunes to put on the mixtape he wants to give to his best friend and crush, Gretchen, we can look up all the songs in the book and make YouTube playlists in just a few minutes. Which is great for me, because many of the songs featured in this book, by bands like Guns n’ Roses, ...more
Maggie Wiggins
A lot of people carried this around with them in my high school hallway. It's an identifiable, interesting read if you enjoy music and pop-culture references. I enjoy the latter but am clueless about the former, which shut me out of much of the novel. I don't think it's especially groundbreaking, but teens tend to tell other teens to read it, so I'm not complaining. Readalikes include Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn, Peeps and So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld.
Brian Oswald, sometimes punk and sometimes metal but always angsty, is the protagonist of this little coming-of-age tale. Like every other male in popular young adult fiction, Brian’s an educated Catholic boy, covered in acne, in love with his best friend, Gretchen, always having that one thing on the brain. There’s nothing wrong with these experiences, but as our narrator reflects on his teenage years in Chicago during the 90s, Brian thus becomes every other dissatisfied youth, characteristic o ...more
Nov 26, 2014 Jennifer rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who lived through the early 90s
Having just finished a female coming-of-age novel set in the early 1930’s, it’s only appropriate that I read a male coming-of-age novel set in the early 1990’s. Hairstyles of the Dammed has a totally different soundtrack, but many of the themes—identity, rebellion, and sexuality are present—just in a slightly different mix. This novel focuses on a year in the life of Brian, who lives on the South Side of Chicago, goes to an all-boys Catholic school, and is love with his best friend, Gretchen, a ...more
Louis Arata
Something grabbed me about this novel. It was so different stylistically from The Boy Detective Fails that I was instantly intrigued. I couldn't believe the same author wrote both works.

The story unfolds in a rambling fashion, saying a lot through teenage misdirection. Bryan Oswald, a junior in a Catholic high school, has fallen in love with his best friend, Gretchen. Over the course of his junior year, he watches as his parents' marriage dissolves, his friends go through relationship break-ups
Rachel Pollock
I loved the voice in this book, the setting, the narrator's quintessentially awkward teen punk 90s guydom. God, i think i probably dated or was pals with half a dozen Brian Oswalds.

I don't know that the experimental sections were always quite successful, but they were interesting stabs at alternative forms (mixed tape liner notes, letters and concurrent doubled-text and the like). I did feel the lack of a more active editor--or so i am assuming--meant the book meandered and sprawled more than p
I was a junior in high school at the same time as Brian and although I can't claim to have discovered the Misfits or 7 Seconds that early (my husband was that cool in high school), it was both traumatic and entertaining to relive the early nineties through Meno's depiction of fashion, music and cultural trends.

The voice in this is so pitch perfect-- hitting all the hard notes (the "demons of racial intolerance, Catholic school conformism and class repression" of the blurb), but doing it lightly
Brittney Johnson
"Hairstyles", is the story of Brian, a high school burnout, growing up in the Chicago south side during the early 1990's with his best friend and first love Gretchen, a punk girl. Through Brian's voice we explore the highs and lows of high school, punk rock music, Catholic School conformism, and racial inequality.

I read this novel when I was in high school myself, and really liked this novel because I could relate to Brian, despite his somewhat morally wrong and crude personality. The differenc
Kim markett
Such a great book! It was just about one persons life and I cared about what he did in it. I loved that it took place in Chicago and all the music references. I really loved it! Thanks Steph! I want to read more by him!
This is some seriously nice writing, possibly some of the best I've seen from Meno. This character is just voiced so well, it really makes the book for me. It has exactly that raw, emotive force that it needs to bring Brian to life and ends up being about more than just the events inside without getting pretentious. It's gritty, believable, and seriously worth reading.
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Joe Meno is a fiction writer and playwright who lives in Chicago. A winner of the Nelson Algren Literary Award, the Great Lakes Book Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Society of Midland Author's Fiction Prize, and a finalist for the Story Prize, he is the author of seven novels and two short story collections. He is also the editor of Chicago Noir: The Classics. A long-time contributor to the seminal c ...more
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“Just because you have blue hair and fucked-up clothes doesn’t mean you’re better than everyone
else. Because you know what? You’re just conforming to someone else’s code. Even though you don’t
wear khakis or sweaters or whatever, but to me all you guys look the same. You think you’re so
individualistic, but you’re not. You guys—you and Kim and all the rest—you’re like anti-snob snobs.
But you’re just as mean as the preppy kids. You’re all just as fucking lame.”
“I was a shy kid and I was afraid what i said sounded stupid, so I hardly ever saud anything. I was the third wheel. Fifth wheel? I was the fucking wheel you didn't really need, but I still hung around. I thought maybe my silence would one day impress somebody. As of yet, it hadn't done much for me.” 5 likes
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