Writer. Has worked as a phone psychic and as a receptionist.
I Hate Valentine's Day, Simon Spotlight Entertainment (New York, NY), 2005.
Lulu Dark Can See through Walls, Razorbill (New York, NY), 2005.
Lulu Dark and the Summer of the Fox, Sleuth/Razorbill (New York, NY), 2006.
The Blonde of the Joke, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2008.
Bennett Madison is the creator of Lulu Dark, a bright and engaging teenage girl detective who can't stand Nancy Drew books but finds herself embroiled in mysteries that she feels compelled to solve. Lulu lives in Halo City, a fictional metropolis that sounds a lot like the Big Apple, with her artist father and his new boyfriend. Her mother, an aspiring actress, has decamped for Hollywood where she can't seem to rise above C-list roles. Lulu has taken all this in stride, forging an identity for herself as a hip but sweet rebel. Critics welcomed Lulu—who wears vintage clothes, attends private school, and is not shy about expressing her disdain for what she sees as stupid or shallow—as a character with fresh appeal for adolescent and young adult audiences.
Lulu first appears in Lulu Dark Can See through Walls. The novel opens when Lulu, a high school junior, resolves to find the person who stole her favorite handbag, which just happens to contain the phone number of a boy she has a crush on. What begins as a seemingly small matter, however, soon evolves into a case of identity theft and even murder. As Lulu investigates, people keep saying that they saw her dancing on tables at a trendy club the night before—but Lulu had been home and in bed. A dead body is found floating in the river, distinguished by a silvershark tattoo. And someone, it seems, is spying on Lulu and even threatening her life. Nevertheless, the reluctant sleuth perseveres, determined to get to the heart of the increasingly complex mystery. Madison peppers the narrative with a slew of pop-culture references and with Lulu's sharp-tongued sarcasm, with results that Booklist reviewer Gillian Engberg called "almost campy." While finding the book's plot "somewhat convoluted," Engberg felt that many readers would enjoy Lulu's exploits, particularly her growing attachment to her best friend, Charlie.
Hollywood is Madison's satirical target in Lulu Dark and the Summer of the Fox. Lulu's has-been actress mother has disappeared, and Lulu suspects a connection between that event and the kidnapping of Charlie, who is now her boyfriend. Among the story's "rampant plot absurdities," as Jennifer Mattson described them in a Booklist review, are a guerilla movement against Hollywood ageism, death threats, and a bus hijacking that Lulu engineers to help her track down a suspect. Is Lulu's mother the leader of the zany guerillas? Who would want to abduct Charlie—and why? As Lulu investigates she finds a surprisingly tangled web, as well as grave danger. Along the way Madison has some fun mocking show-business culture, including the narcissism and self-indulgence of would-be stars and the absurdities of reality-TV series such as The Apprentice.
As with the first Lulu mystery, critics enjoyed the mix of farce, style, and feminist spirit in Lulu Dark and the Summer of the Fox. As Mattson pointed out in Booklist, for all of Lulu's gutsy worldliness the character is "more wholesome than many of chick-lit's edgier heroines." B. Allison Gray, reviewing the novel in School Library Journal, made a similar point, observing that young readers will be thoroughly entertained by the "smart, funny chick-lit heroine who has real problems and a satirical outlook."
In an interview posted on the Shaken & Stirred Web log, Madison explained how he decided to try his hand at young adult mystery fiction. "I wouldn't say I have always been a fan of girl detectives," he admitted, "but, growing up, I just liked anything genre. I also liked anything serialized, or anything that had many installments. What this means now is that I have pretty much equal affection for Nancy Drew, The Babysitter's Club, Oz, and the X-Men." His real ambition, he added, "is still to write the X-Men."
Madison has also written a humorous take on romance and conformity in I Hate Valentine's Day. The book includes tips that include places and people to avoid, how to get an emergency date, and what to do if you run into an ex-lover. "Valentine's Day is just sucky and stupid," Madison remarked in an interview posted on the Gothamist Web log. "If you like someone, you should be nice to them all the time." As he explained to USA Today writer Jocelyn Noveck, he decided to write I Hate Valentine's Day because "all my friends were complaining" about the holiday. "It seemed like everyone was setting themselves up for something impossible. It's like they were seeing that one day as a referendum on their whole romantic life." Madison likened the pressure of celebrating Valentine's Day to the stress of Christmas—but even worse, because "it's got that added layer of romance. Just one more thing to make you feel inadequate." Rachel Kramer Bussel, writing in the Village Voice called I Hate Valentine's Day "a snarky guide to surviving the dreaded holiday."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 1, 2005, Gillian Engberg, review of Lulu Dark Can See through Walls, p. 1541; May 1, 2006, Jennifer Mattson, review of Lulu Dark and the Summer of the Fox, p. 42.
Kliatt, May, 2005, Myrna Marler, review of Lulu Dark Can See through Walls, p. 16.
MBR Bookwatch, May, 2005, Vicki Arkoff, review of Lulu Dark Can See through Walls.
School Library Journal, June, 2005, Tasha Saecker, review of Lulu Dark Can See through Walls, p. 164; August, 2006, B. Allison Gray, review of Lulu Dark and the Summer of the Fox, p. 124.
USA Today, February 12, 2006, Jocelyn Noveck, "Valentine's Day Isn't Cuddly for Everyone," author interview.
Village Voice, January 25, 2005, Rachel Kramer Bussel, "V-Day Breakups and Hookups," review of I Hate Valentine's Day.
Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 2005, Chris Carlson, review of Lulu Dark Can See through Walls, p. 220.
Bennett Madison Home Page,http://www.bennettmadison.net (March 18, 2008).
Gothamist Web log,http://gothamist.com/ (March 18 2008), author interview.
Shaken & Stirred Web log,http://gwendabond.typepad.com/ (March 18, 2008), author interview.