by Jerry Spinelli
Where It All Goes Down
Pennsylvania, sometime last century
We don't get a nice clear date thrown at us anytime in Maniac, but we do get a handy dandy reference to one Mr. Willie Mays. It turns out Grayson pitched to the Say Hey kid back in his own heyday, so we know it's after the 1960s.
Also, besides a TV here and there, technology is noticeably absent. So Maniac takes place at some point in the second half of the twentieth century, after the greatest player in the history of baseball has retired, and before iPhones. (And maybe even before Walkmen.)
Double Your Mills, Double Your Fun
Maniac spends time in various locations throughout Pennsylvania. He's born in Bridgeport, lives in Hollidaysburg, but the most important place to his story: good old Two Mills. (Hint: not a real town.)
But it's not that simple. See, Two Mills has Hector Street. On the West side of Hector Street is the West End. And on the East side of Hector Street is ... come on, you can do it! ... the East End!
These aren't just neighborhoods; they're the key to your entire identity—your family, your friends, and even the name of your gang. It all comes down to the color of your skin: "The East End was blacks, the West End was whites." (3.20).
Maniac is the exception to this rule. Maniac is both an East and West Ender at various points, though we have to say, drama doesn't care which side of Hector he's on: it follows him no matter what.
728 Sycamore, 101 Bandshell Boulevard and Casa McNab
Can you imagine what it would be like to be in fifth grade without an address? That's Maniac's situation after he runs away from his aunt and uncle, and he becomes pretty obsessed with something most of us don't spend too much time thinking about.
728 Sycamore Street is the first loving home Maniac finds—annoying siblings, strict parents and all. That home is pre-fabricated, just waiting for him to step in and claim his palace.
But Maniac makes 101 Bandshell Boulevard a home with his attitude, some books, a lot of love, and a little paint:
He opened the can, stirred the paint, put a jacket on, grabbed the brush and went outside. Grayson followed. He watched the kid paint on the outside of the door, in careful strokes: 101. Maniac stepped back, admiring his work. 'One oh one,' he proclaimed. 'One oh one Band Shell Boulevard. (29.21-22)
What does this tell us? For Maniac, setting isn't just an important thing; it's the thing. Without a home, there's no reason to live.