Author: Matthew Quick
Read: June 11, 2014
Summary: How would you spend your birthday if you knew it would be your last?
Eighteen-year-old Leonard Peacock knows exactly what he'll do. He'll say goodbye.
Not to his mum - who he calls Linda because it annoys her - who's moved out and left him to fend for himself. Nor to his former best friend, whose torments have driven him to consider committing the unthinkable. But to his four friends: a Humphrey-Bogart-obsessed neighbour, a teenage violin virtuoso, a pastor's daughter and a teacher.
Most of the time, Leonard believes he's weird and sad but these friends have made him think that maybe he's not. He wants to thank them, and say goodbye.
Review: This book destroys any argument Ruth Graham made about why adults should be embarrassed to read young adult. Not that I thought her argument was valid to begin with (read and let read, woman!) but this book shows that a "young adult" book can (and should) be read and enjoyed by the masses. In this touching, well written, deep story, we meet Leonard Peacock. From the beginning, it's obvious that Leonard is a little different than most of the people in his school. His best friend is his elderly neighbor who he watches movies with, he's the son of a "rock star" and a fashion designer who couldn't want anything less to do with him, and he recently cut off all of his hair with scissors. Oh yea, and he's suicidal.
This book gives a brilliant glimpse into a teenager's mind as well as person who has a history of trauma and is currently suicidal. I don't have enough positive things to say about this book. Yes, the homicide/suicide idea is not easy to address and focus on and it was a little predictable, but Matthew Quick did a phenomenal job of addressing how various events in a teenager's life can easily lead to suicidal thoughts. Now, I won't get all therapeutic on everyone (even though all of my therapist red flags were flying throughout the whole book) but I think this story shows what can go through a suicidal teen's head. The warning signs are there all day long and people miss them or they acknowledge them and fail to do something about it. It's heartbreaking and it happens every day in our society.
When we meet Leonard, we realize he is a smart, sarcastic, engaging teenager and he is the boy who would grow up to do great things if only he could survive high school. Like many kids out there. But he has to find a way to survive, and he hasn't. He thinks suicide is his only way out. I wasn't one of the cool kids in high school and I wasn't one of the losers either (I don't think at least.) I floated along with my group and made it out alive. I also know how hard it is to do that especially if people are telling you that "high school is the best time of your life." I was told this and I can 100% say it was wrong. I can also state with 100% accuracy that 9th grade was the worst year of my life! But this is the message we sell to teenagers. Can you imagine thinking that high school is as good as it gets? It's easy to understand how suicide becomes so common at that age if that is what you are taught. Let's stop teaching kids this, please!!!
Now, back to the story. We follow Leonard throughout the day on his 18th birthday (which nobody in his life even acknowledges) and we also start to understand the history that got him to this suicidal state. (Side note: I will warn you, there are a million footnotes which provide flashbacks and comments throughout the book but they are worth it. I suggest using an e-reader because one click gets you where you need to go but to each his own.) We found out that Leonard is thoughtful and takes other people's feelings into consideration when he is planing his suicide which is why he has presents for the four most important people in his life. Our hearts break with him as we have to relive some of the worst moments in his life but we also hope throughout the whole story that someone, somewhere, will stop him from what he is about to do. I won't spoil it for you because you absolutely have to read this book. It will make you laugh, cry, think deeply, and want to watch a good Bogart film. Go pick it up whether you love or hate young adult because your feelings on YA are irrelevant when it comes to reading this book. Go. Do it now.
"I can tell you get it-- you're different. And I know how hard being different can be. But I also know how powerful a weapon being different can be. How the world needs such weapons. Gandhi was different. All great people are. And unique people such as you and me need to seek out other unique people who understand--so we don't get too lonely and end up where you did tonight."