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Literature: Maniac Magee
Ma-niac, Ma-niac,
He's so cool
Ma-niac, Ma-niac,
Don't go to school
Runs all night
Runs all right
Ma-niac, Ma-niac,
Kissed a bull!
- Two Mills jump-rope rhyme

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.

These are the following tropes:

  • Alliterative Family: All ten of the Pickwell children have names that start with the letter D.
    • Strangely enough, Hester and Lester Beale are not twins, but were given rhyming names.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Butterscotch Krimpets are made to sound so delicious that many kids reading the book thought they were made up. They aren't.
  • Anger Born of Worry: A sizeable portion of how Amanda interacts with Maniac. She loves him like a brother, but he drives her absolutely crazy running off all the time.
  • Bad Liar: Amanda might have been able to drag Maniac to the store with her before he saw the graffiti... if it hadn't been so early in the morning that all the stores were closed.
  • Badass: Maniac.
  • Badass Bookworm: Maniac, again, as well as Amanda Beale.
  • Berserk Button: Do not mess with Amanda's books.
    • 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.
  • Bratty Half Pints: Piper and Russell.
    • Hester and Lester, to an extent.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Amanda and Mars Bar appear to have shades of this, especially apparent towards the end of the book.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Hester and Lester see Maniac this way. He tries to be one to Piper and Russell, as well.
  • Cool Old Guy: Grayson.
  • Dark and Troubled Past
  • Death by Newbery Medal: Earl Grayson.
  • 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.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Jada Pinkett Smith is the narrator of the film adaption of Maniac Magee.
    • Rip Torn is George McNab.
    • Orlando Brown AKA Cornelius Filmore is Mars Bar.
  • Heroic BSOD: Maniac suffers a huge one after Grayson passes away.
  • Jerk Ass: John and George McNab, Mars Bar for most of the book.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mars Bar becomes this after saving Russell from being run over.
  • 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.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Averted. Maniac just wants to be accepted by everyone.
  • Meaningful Name: Piper McNab, whose laughter is like the blast of a truck horn.
  • Memetic Mutation: In-universe, Maniac's exploits become the subject of a jump-rope chant.
    Maniac, Maniac, he's so cool
    Maniac, Maniac, don't go to school
    Runs all night
    Runs all right
    Maniac, Maniac, kissed a bull
  • Na´ve Newcomer: Maniac, at first.
  • Never Learned to Read: Grayson, at least until Maniac teaches him.
  • 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.
  • No Communities Were Harmed
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Mars Bar.
    • And Maniac, to some parts of the town. Even if other people know his real first name, only the Beales keep calling him Jeffrey.
  • Parental Abandonment: Maniac's parents died in a train crash.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Amanda tends to talk this way when annoyed.
  • Reason You Suck Speech: Amanda is a master. Maniac gets a few for running away, including one she delivers when he's not even present. She yells it at the front door.
  • The Rival: Mars Bar to Maniac. It's largely one-sided on Mars Bar's part, though.
  • The Runaway: Maniac.
  • Sassy Black Girl: Amanda.
  • Scary Black Boy: Mars Bar. He eventually warms up a little bit.
  • Sweet Tooth: Mars Bar, presumably.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Maniac will do anything for a pack of Tastykake Butterscotch Krimpets.
    • Mars Bar is rarely seen without a candy bar. He earned the name.
  • Truth in Television: A street that divides a community neatly in half? St. Louis has it.
    • 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.
  • 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.

Number the StarsNewbery MedalThe True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
Main Street SeriesYoung Adult LiteratureMara, Daughter of the Nile
Manhattan TransferLiterature of the 1990sManifold: Time

alternative title(s): Maniac Magee
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