The encyclopedia is ripped to shreds to send a message to the Beales and Maniac.
Amanda’s library is her most prized possession, and the encyclopedia’s volume A is the crown jewel. She wants to read the entire thing. She has only the one volume of the encyclopedia. Maniac wants to read it too, but he can’t get his hands on it.
Problem was, Amanda was always reading it. And she vowed she wasn't giving it up, not even to Maniac, till she read everything from Aardvark to Aztec. To make matters worse, the supermarket offer had expired, so there were no other volumes. (Ch. 15)
Amanda carts her entire library to school with her in a suitcase, to protect it. On the day that Maniac unties the knot, they discover that someone ripped her book.
He followed the scrap-paper trail up Hector and down Sycamore, all the way to the Beales' front steps. The only thing left of the book was the blue-and-red covet. It looked something like an empty loose leaf binder. (Ch. 21)
Amanda is crying, and tearfully says it is her own fault because she left it in the living room where “anybody could look through the window.” She doesn’t blame Maniac, but he blames himself. He knows how much that book means to her. It is the last straw.
After this incident, Maniac decides to leave. He wants to make sure that Amanda and her family aren’t hurt any more. People just don’t approve of a white boy living with a black family. To Maniac, the Beales are his family. Others do not see it that way.
Maniac’s search for belonging throughout the book is heart-breaking. With the Beales, he has a chance at a normal life. However, that normal life is tainted by racism and intolerance. Although the Beales appreciate Maniac for who he is, the situation is untenable because race relations are not to the point where a white boy can be adopted by a black family. Ultimately, though, Maniac decides that race makes no difference.