Study Guide

Bonny in Tales of the Madman Underground

By John Barnes


Karl's former love interest in the Madmen bunch, Bonny is kind of a cross between a preppy cheerleader and a hippie chick. Really, she sounds like the kind of girl a dude like Karl in the 1970s would fall head over heels for: "She was looking sort of like Grace Slick or Janis Joplin […] in three layers of skirts and a vest with a lot of gold piping […] and her red hair was spilling out of a purple scarf" (3.63). Don't you want somebody to love? Of course, you do.

Like all of the Madmen and Madgirls, Bonny has trouble at home. Her parents own an import/export shop in Toledo and are always on the move, either in foreign countries looking for goods or out actually running the store. The problem is that they don't actually make a lot of money, and Bonny is usually left in charge of the house with no money.

Like the rest of the Madmen, she's also fiercely loyal to her parents in spite of their neglect: "She wasn't going to nark on her parents, since that could mean the kids being taken away or even her parents being busted and doing jail time. So Bonny made the money, one way or another" (3.61). Poor kid.

There was no Facebook in 1973, obviously, but if there had been, Bonny and Karl's relationship status definitely would have been "it's complicated." Things were going pretty well with them the previous spring, that is, if you didn't count their nonexistent sex life. As Karl puts it, "Bonny had some weird problems about making out and touching; actually, her rules were pretty simple, just crazy" (16.23). The short version is that she keeps shaming herself when they touch each other and making him promise to never do it again, which, for a teenage boy, just isn't hot at all.

Then things got really complicated on prom night, when, out of nowhere, Bonny tried to seduce Karl and he refused to have sex with her. She freaked out, accused him of disrespecting her, and kicked him out of her house. Since then, the two have remained friends, but there are hints that Karl regrets not taking a chance. "Bonny was cute and she cracked me up a lot and I liked being out with her," he tells us. "I guess most guys would've said I had a great girlfriend back then" (16.22). We're thinking he ultimately made the right choice, though—Bonny was kind of a hot mess when it came to what she wanted from him.