Study Guide

Maniac Magee Friendship

By Jerry Spinelli

Friendship

As he passed them, he said, 'Hi.' Just that—'Hi'—and he was gone. They stopped, they blinked, they turned, they stared after him, they wondered: Do I know that kid? Because people just didn't say that to strangers, out of the blue. (2.7)

Gee, how rude of him to say "Hi." But really, Maniac has the most important step towards friendship down: being friendly. It's kind of a relief that life with the unloving Uncle Dan and Aunt Dot didn't completely turn him off of human niceties, right?

Maniac smiled. "We can fix it." The way he said it, she believed. "Want to come to my house?" she said. "Sure," he said. (11.26-28)

And there you have it: a friendship is born. Yep, Amanda and Maniac really start becoming friends when they begin to trust each other. Maniac offers to fix something that's wrong, and Amanda invites him home.

She regretted it as soon as she said it. His head swung, his eyes met hers. His eyes said, Why did you say that? Her eyes couldn't answer. (18.30)

Friendship isn't all giggling and going to movies together. Sometimes we say mean things. And the hard part is, it's going to hurt worse, because it's coming from someone you love and trust.

Two days later, while playing pepper in the Legion infield, the old man said to the kid, "So why don't you go ahead and teach me how to read?" (26.22)

Who do you trust with your biggest secrets? Probably not the random dude you sit next to on the bus. Big secrets are reserved for true friends. Maniac gets to teach Grayson how to read because Grayson truly trusts him.

As for Maniac, he understood early on that he was being used for the greater glory of Piper and Russell. (37.9)

"Used" is a word that generally has very little to do with friendship. So what's the deal here? Is Maniac friends with Russell and Piper? Something more? Something less?

Why did I do it? was all Maniac could think. He hadn't even realized it till he crossed the line, and he regretted it instantly. Wasn't it enough just to win? Did he have to disgrace his opponent as well? Had he done it deliberately, to pay back Mars Bar for all his nastiness? (38.34)

So maybe Mars and Maniac weren't friends just yet, but we'll admit to being disappointed in Maniac here. At the same time, it's nice to know he's not totally perfect.

Out-numbered, out-weighed, but not out-hearted. That's when Maniac felt it—pride, for this East End warrior whom Maniac could feel trembling in his arms, scared as any normal kid would be, but not showing it to them. Yeah, you're bad all right, Mars Bar. You're more than bad. You're good. (42.44)

It was easy for Maniac to be friends with Amanda or Grayson, but this is the real test for Maniac. Can he identify with, appreciate someone who isn't friendly, and who challenges him? Hey, he can be friends with a buffalo—so, we're thinking yes.

Though each face showed no awareness of the other, they were in fact minutely sensitive to each other. If Mars Bar cranked up the pace just a notch, Maniac would pick it up within a stride; if Maniac inched ahead, mars Bar was there. If one veered to the left or right, the other followed like a shadow. One day one was the leader, the next day the other. (44.10)

Even after the birthday party, Maniac and Mars have a lot of history to overcome. This is a pretty good way to do it though, right? They use their shared abilities to push each other on, not push each other away.

'All we sayin'—all she sayin'—is, you wanna come for a little, you know, visit? You want to? Well come on, you can. That's all. Don't go makin' no big thing man. Ain't no big thing.'

Maniac shuddered. He turned his eyes to the sky, beyond the flickering fireflies to the stars. If there were answers, they were as far away as the constellations. 'I gotta go,' he said, and before Mars Bar could react, he was over the fence and hurrying for the lean-to." (45.82-83)

So Maniac and Mars obviously have different backgrounds and approaches to friendship: it's pretty simple for Mars. So is Maniac making things more complicated than they need to be here?

But the voice of the buffalo was the voice of Amanda Beale, and its teeth were her fingers pulling and wrenching his poor ear till he was sitting upright. (46.5)

Notice that its not Mrs. Beale or Mr. Beale who calls Maniac home to their family. It's Amanda, who is Maniac's friend first. It's Maniac's peers (Amanda gets a timely assist from Mars/Snickers here) who have the ability to get Maniac to do things. In other words—friends, not parents.

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