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Hairstyles of the Damned


The debut novel from Akashic’s new imprint, Punk Planet Books. Also check out the smash hits How the Hula Girl Sings, Tender as Hellfire, and The Boy Detective Fails.

$14.95 $11.21

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What people are saying…

Included in MTV.com’s “These 17 Music-Themed YA Books Could Be Your Life”

A selection of the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Program.

“Meno gives his proverbial coming-of-age tale a punk-rock edge, as seventeen-year-old Chicagoan Brian Oswald tries to land his first girlfriend . . . Meno ably explores Brian’s emotional uncertainty and his poignant youthful search for meaning . . . His gabby, heartfelt, and utterly believable take on adolescence strikes a winning chord.”
Publishers Weekly

“A funny, hard-rocking first-person tale of teenage angst and discovery.”

“Captures the loose, fun, recklessness of midwestern punk.”

“Captures both the sweetness and sting of adolescence with unflinching honesty.”
Entertainment Weekly

“Joe Meno writes with the energy, honesty, and emotional impact of the best punk rock. From the opening sentence to the very last word, Hairstyles of the Damned held me in his grip.”
—Jim DeRogatis, pop music critic, Chicago Sun-Times

“The most authentic young voice since J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield . . . A darn good book.”
Daily Southtown

“Sensitive, well-observed, often laugh-out-loud funny . . . You won’t regret a moment of the journey.”
Chicago Tribune

“Meno is a romantic at heart. Not the greeting card kind, or the Harlequin paperback version, but the type who thinks, deep down, that things matter, that art can change lives.”
Elgin Courier News

“Funny and charming and sad and real. The adults are sparingly yet poignantly drawn, especially the fathers, who slip through without saying much but make a profound impression.”
Chicago Journal

“Underneath his angst, Brian, the narrator of Hairstyles of the Damned, possesses a disarming sense of compassion which allows him to worm his way into the reader’s heart. It is this simple contradiction that makes Meno’s portrait of adolescence so convincing: He has dug up and displayed for us the secret paradox of the teenage years, the desire to belong pitted against the need for individuality—a constant clash of hate and love.”

“Joe Meno knows Chicago’s south side the way Jane Goodall knew chimps and apes—which is to say, he really knows it. He also knows about the early ’90s, punk rock, and awkward adolescence. Best of all, he knows the value of entertainment. Hairstyles of the Damned is proof positive.”
—John McNally, author of The Book of Ralph

“Filled with references to dozens of bands and mix-tape set lists, the book’s heart and soul is driven by a teenager’s life-changing discovery of punk’s social and political message . . . Meno’s alter ego, Brian Oswald, is a modern-day Holden Caulfield . . . It’s a funny, sweet, and, at times, hard-hitting story with a punk vibe.”
—Mary Houlihan, Chicago Sun-Times

“Meno’s language is rhythmic and honest, expressing things proper English never could. And you’ve got to hand it to the author, who pulled off a very good trick: The book is punk rock. It’s not just punk rock. It’s not just about punk rock; it embodies the idea of punk rock; it embodies the idea of punk—it’s pissed off at authority, it won’t groom itself properly, and it irritates. Yet its rebellious spirit is inspiring and right on the mark.”
SF Weekly

“This book is hella good. Joe Meno manages to sink into the teenage-outcast experience, challenge segregation, and provide step-by-step instructions on dyeing hair pink in this realistic account of finding your identity. After reading Hairstyles of the Damned, I’m glad I’m not in high school anymore.”
—Amy Schroeder, Venus magazine

Hairstyles of the Damned is observational comedy of the best kind, each glittering small detail offering up a wave of memories for anyone alive in the latter part of the previous century. Did you imagine you had forgotten the smell of arcades, the allure of muscle cars, the dress codes and emotional rebellions, the cringing horror of adolescence? Beware: Joe Meno can make you remember.”

“What makes Hairstyles of the Damned compelling is Meno’s ability to create compelling is Meno’s ability to create the rhythm of teen-speak without pandering, and his ability to infuse the story with pop-culture references. A good read for those wanting to remember their youthful mischief.”

“Meno’s recounting of first concerts, first loves, and the first tragedies of adolescence are awesomely paired with the heavy backbeat of late-’80s subculture. The contagious foot tapping that is symptomatic of a good record is the same energy that drives you as you follow Meno’s narrative.”


Interest level: 9–up | Grade level: HS–Adult | Lexile Level: 1130L | Guided Reading Level/F&P: Z+

Read “Disappears,” Joe Meno’s contribution to Akashic’s Mondays Are Murder series.

Joe Meno answered 16 questions for Akashic’s Literary Lions feature. Read his answers here.

An excerpt of Hairstyles of the Damned is available for free download through Akashic’s Joe Meno Digit.

Hairstyles of the Damned is the debut novel of our Punk Planet Books imprint, which originates from Punk Planet magazine.

Hairstyles of the Damned is an honest, true-life 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. Based on the actual events surrounding a Chicago high school’s segregated prom, this work of fiction unflinchingly pursues the truth in discovering what it means to be your own person.


Book Details

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Published: 9/1/04
  • IBSN: 9781888451702
  • e-IBSN: 9781936070299


JOE MENO is a fiction writer and journalist who lives in Chicago. Winner of the Nelson Algren Literary Award, a Pushcart Prize, and a finalist for the Story Prize, Meno is the best-selling author of several novels and short story collections including Marvel and a Wonder, The Great Perhaps, The Boy Detective Fails, and Hairstyles of the Damned. He is a professor in the English and Creative Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago. Book of Extraordinary Tragedies is his latest work.

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