Study Guide

Cheryl Taliaferro in Tales of the Madman Underground

By John Barnes

Cheryl Taliaferro

Cheryl holds the distinction of being not only the most popular girl in the school but Queen of the Madman Underground. We're not sure how she manages to pull this feat off, but it might have something to do with the fact that she has really cool clothes and a mom who puts a high priority on her daughter looking pretty, taking her to Cleveland pretty regularly for a perm. For those of you who don't know Ohio, that's about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from where we can pinpoint the location of Lightsburg. That's dedication to hair if we've ever seen it.

On the surface, Cheryl's the girl every female student wants to be and every guy wants to be with:

Cheryl was the queen of the socials—all the cute, perky girls with big smiles that knew everybody. She was the secretary or vice president for every club and committee, always at every party, and never missed a game. She was always tits-up go-team super-positive gosh-I-love-it-here-and-everything-is-so-wonderful and all-my-friends-are-my-specialest-funnest-buddies. (3.3)

At least, that's what everyone sees. What they don't see is that Cheryl comes from a home packed with child neglect and sexual abuse. Her grandfather lives with her family, and when he's not making inappropriate comments about Cheryl's boobs in front of her parents, he's molesting her younger sister, Sammy. To make things worse, her parents always take Bad Grandpa's side: "Cheryl and her sister got punished if they 'disrespected' the old troll" (3.11), Karl tells us.

Basically, Cheryl is an extreme example of what all the Madmen have in common—there's seriously bad stuff going on behind the scenes. Not only are they afraid of telling on their parents, they're also afraid of the consequences of standing up for themselves. In Cheryl's case, talking to her parents, who are supposed to protect her and her sister, could lead to punishment instead of resolution.