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This is a beautiful, gut-wrenching book. It's wonderfully written and very well performed. It's a first person narrative, and so successfully performed that I have no trouble believing that I've been listening to Leonard Peacock himself reading his story, backed up by the other characters who speak through him.
First, the story: I've never read anything by Matthew Quick before. In fact, I wouldn't normally even try a story about a suicidal (and possibly homicidal) teenager. But Quick's writing is full of honesty, clarity, poetry and humanity, and the character of Leonard is so well drawn and interesting that I found myself not wanting him to kill himself because the world needs people like Leonard Peacock in it; and I want to meet Leonard and know him.
And now I'm wondering if the paragraph I just wrote will look good in my college application. (Read the book and you'll know why I said that.)
Because just for the record ... and for my college application ... I wouldn't have wanted him to commit suicide even if he was a spectacularly unlikeable person.
Everything in the story is emotionally real, for good and ill. Quick is obviously an insightful and empathetic observer of people. His writing is full of compassion, but never glides over the messy bits, even when part of me wanted him to.
Second, the narration: Just absolutely perfect. The different voices are distinguished nicely, with each character (male and female) given distinctiveness and believability but without sounding forced or like caricatures. But mostly, the voice is Leonard's, and it's completely believable and good to listen to. Even if Noah Galvin is a middle-aged, cigar-chomping rodeo announcer in real life, to me he will forever be a teenage boy from New Jersey.
Finally, the recommendation: Read the book (well, listen to the book). You'll laugh. You'll cry. You may have to stop to write down a few words and phrases (I did), or to look up a few historical facts (Walt Disney was a Nazi sympathizer, who knew?) And if you're paying any attention at all to what's going on in Leonard's head, you'll be a better person when you're done.
Oh, and you may feel the urge to watch Casablanca a few times as well.
32 of 33 people found this review helpful
The author that gave us that warm-puppy of a novel, The Silver Linings Playbook, once again has us malleable putty in his compassionate hands. Quick has proven to be a novelist with some insight into those behaviors that sometimes prevent us from seeing the humanity that lies beneath them. In spite of the straight forward set up (you could almost say manipulative in the nicest way) he has the ability to make us challenge our comfortable conceptions and crank our necks a little harder to get a wider view, and as a reader, that interaction impresses me.
I worked with hundreds of Leonard Peacocks in my profession; kids struggling to communicate beyond their hurt in a world that seems to make no sense to them. My background challenges my objectivity rating this book, but I can say that it is one of the better books I've read describing a particular troubled teen's thought process, so I'll approach this rating from that POV. It does that with sympathy and authenticity, with some excellent insight that has been very responsibly supported by several professionals (noted in the epilogue). On the other hand, I also worked with the kids that were locked up during their therapeutic hospitalization to prevent them from carrying out pure evil -- and that is apples to these oranges. This is not a textbook about personality disorders, or a fictionalized look into the mind of Columbine-like attackers at all. I doubt (I hope) Quick intended this border-line warm-fuzzy book to examine behaviors on that level, and it would be a naïve disservice to lump this into such a category.
This is a heart-touching look at one of those *troubled oddballs*. As Leonard counts down the hours to carrying out what he feels is a necessary catastrophe, his narration reminded me of a similar confused and misplaced childish bravado...
"The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another, his mother called him "WILD THING!" and Max said "I'LL EAT YOU UP!" [Where The Wild Things Are; Maurice Sendak]
There's obvious pain and confusion beneath Leonard Peacock's words.
Reviewer L. Gutzman said he thought this should be required reading--a wonderful sentiment that would makes us all a little more aware and compassionate. This is a great story -- ignore the NY Times glass-half-empty mention of this book making a *social commentary* and just value, maybe even share, the view the story leaves you with. You'll be a wiser and kinder person.
37 of 42 people found this review helpful