Like a number of other youth adult books that I have enjoyed recently, this is a very good book with some very serious content.
Matthew Quick, author of Silver Linings Playbook, has a particular talent of getting inside the head of someone with a mental illness and helping the reader really understand what is going on.
This whole book takes place in just over 24 hours. Leonard Peacock’s birthday is a difficult time. His father, a former rock star, alcoholic and drug user left the country due to problems with the IRS and may be dead. His mother has decided she is going to be a fashion designer and so has left Leonard on his own and moved to Manhattan.
Leonard is very bright, but socially a bit awkward and because of abandonment issues with both his mother and father he has a hard time trusting people. When his grandfather died, his grandfather left the family plenty of money and Leonard a Nazi handgun.
Leonard had decided life is no longer worth living. So Leonard had planned to take his grandfather’s gun and kill his former friend (there is a real reason that is hinted at for a while before being discussed explicitly toward the end of the book) before killing himself.
But before the murder/suicide Leonard had decided to give four people that are important to him presents. Through the story of the day, and the background on both the gifts and the people he is giving the gifts to, we learn both how hard and how easy it is to make a difference in someone’s life.
Matthew Quick really is a very good author and does a very good job of using enough humor to keep the story light while dealing with serious subjects. Suicide is clearly a serious issue and thoughts of suicide are common among both teens and adults. Mental illness is still too hidden in society and I think books like this are helpful to raise awareness. Although this is a book about a young adult, the content is such that it needs a warning attached. In addition to suicide and murder, there is also a good bit of language and sexual discussion (although no sex scenes). I think it is handled well, not everyone should read the book. I would love to suggest it as a discussion group for teens, but the content makes me wary to broadly recommend it. I would suggest it for a college age or adult group.
I listened to the book as an audiobook from the library and it was very well narrated.