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Maniac Magee is a young adult book written by Jerry Spinelli. It features a strange boy named Jeffrey Magee who loses his parents and runs away at age eleven, ending up a year later in Two Mills, a town in Pennsylvania that's divided into two sides: The East End, where all the black families live, and West End, with all the white families. Completely ignorant of how the town works, the first person he talks to is a girl on the East End named Amanda Beale, from whom he borrows a book.As the days go by, Jeffrey is sighted all over town doing incredible things - stealing football passes from high schoolers in the middle of practice, rescuing a boy from the backyard of the creepiest old man in town, and running - running - on the steel rail of the train tracks. When he tries to return Amanda's book, he both makes an enemy in Mars Bar Thompson, a kid who doesn't like seeing a white boy in his neighborhood, and finds a home with Amanda Beale's family. Months ago by and Jeffrey makes a name for himself as the kid who can untie any knot, who runs like a demon, and who doesn't seem to understand that he looks different. He even earns a nickname: Maniac.But while the Beales accept him into their family immediately, a few citizens of the East End aren't quite as welcoming. Trouble starts brewing for the Beale family, and before they know it, Maniac is off and running again.The book follows Maniac's year-long search for a home in Two Mills and his attempts to deal with the ugly feelings on both sides of Hector Street, as told by a narrator possibly decades later detailing the facts behind a town legend.A film adaption aired on Nicklodeon in 2003, although it was lighter in comparsion with the book.
Maniac gets a similar button with Grayson's old baseball glove.
Blithe Spirit: Maniac to Two Mills, very slowly. The main part of the book takes place over more than a year, and by that time very little has changed overall - but by the year the narrator is speaking from, well in the future, the segregation is a thing of the past and little girls from both sides of Hector Street sing the jump-rope song together.
Death Glare: Mars Bar can cause a traffic jam just by doing this, according to legend.
Embarrassing Nickname: Amanda gives one to Mars Bar at the end of the novel. "How bad can you act if everyone's calling you Snickers?"
Urban Racism: The West Enders and the East Enders have this attitude towards each other. It comes to the forefront when Magee is cooling off from the summer heat with a bunch of East Enders, using a burst fire hydrant - an old black man comes up to him and throws racial epithets at him, saying he doesn't belong there, until someone drags the old man away. Maniac leaves that night, and then for good a few weeks later.
First Name Basis: Amanda, and by extension her whole family, will only address Maniac by his given name: Jeffrey.
Heroic BSOD: Maniac suffers a huge one after Grayson passes away.
Kick the Dog: Amanda kicks the family dog, Bow Wow, in a fit of rage after having an argument with Maniac that resulted in Maniac running away.
Like Brother and Sister: Maniac and Amanda, plus the littler Beale kids. He actually refers to them as such when describing them to Grayson:
"Do you know the Beales? Of seven twenty-eight Sycamore Street?"
The old man shook his head.
"Well, they were my family. I had a mother and father and a little brother and sister and a sister my age and a dog. My own room, too."
Last Name Basis: Earl Grayson, and John McNab for the first part of the book. The latter averts this in scenes where his father is also present, and Maniac begins calling him John when he brings Russell and Piper home.
Lonely Funeral: Maniac is the only mourner at Grayson's funeral, which is little more than just burying the man's dead body in a hole.
No Accounting for Taste: Maniac's aunt and uncle have a deep mutual hatred for each other, yet stay together because divorce is against their religion. It's their horrible relationship that finally makes Maniac just snap and run as far away as he can from them.
Spinelli based Two Mills on his hometown of Norristown, PA where US-202 splits the town in half.
Tsundere: Amanda behaves this way towards Maniac and Mars Bar.
Unreliable Narrator: Certain parts are deliberately left unclear, since it's a retelling of a story the kids of a town embellished over the years. Certain things like Mars' glare stopping traffic and the various feats Maniac performs to keep Russell and Piper in school may not be true - but, since many are actually requests made by little kids after both boys are famous, they certainly could be.
Urban Legends: The intro of the book, and some critical intepretations, imply that the story of Maniac Magee was nothing more than a local legend.
Wham Line: "Five days later the old man was dead."
And, to a lesser extent, "So why don't you go ahead and teach me to read?"
Maniac takes "You can't get a library card without an address!" as this.
What the Hell, Hero?: Maniac not only beats Mars Bar in a race, but goes about doing it backwards! Afterwards he's not too pleased with himself for humiliating his opponent for no reason.