Today is Leonard Peacock’s birthday. It is also the day he hides a gun in his backpack. Because today is the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather’s P-38 pistol.
But first he must say good-bye to the four people who matter most to him: his Humphrey Bogart-obsessed next-door neighbor, Walt; his classmate Baback, a violin virtuoso; Lauren, the Christian homeschooler he has a crush on; and Herr Silverman, who teaches the high school’s class on the Holocaust. Speaking to each in turn, Leonard slowly reveals his secrets as the hours tick by and the moment of truth approaches.
I picked up this advanced reading copy (to be released August 2013) at OLA this past January. At first, I noticed the interesting cover, and then I recognized the author, Matthew Quick (author of Silver Linings Playbook).
I found the book to be an honest, yet difficult read. The storyline boils down to a day and half of Leonard planning a murder/suicide. Immediately, I found Leonard to be a very unlikable pessimistic character until we finally learn why he has such hatred toward his classmate, Asher. Leonard demonstrates all the warning signs of suicide (change in appearance, giving away possessions) and only his teacher Herr Silvermann and elderly neighbour Walt seem to notice. His family situation saddened me.
His teacher recommended that Leonard write letters from the future to help him imagine his future and serve as a reminder that his life can get better. Although I think the idea behind it makes sense, I didn’t enjoy the inclusion of his sci-fi letters. I found them so out there and I’m not even sure how that could even help him as it won’t even come close to resembling his true future. Also, the letters were never explained until after the first one, so I was very confused when I first came across it. I also didn’t enjoy the over use and length of the footnotes. I have never seen such lengthy footnotes; some take up the majority of the page.
Overall, I think a lot of reluctant readers (especially teen boys) would enjoy this book. It is a contemporary read that includes: curse words, a WW11 Nazi handgun, threat of violence, a mysterious Holocaust teacher, and the questioning of religion and adult happiness. I found the ending very fitting and true to the story and characters, even if it wasn’t the happiest.