by: Matthew Quick
published by: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
publish date: August 18, 2013
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.
No one has remembered Leonard's birthday. His one-hit-wonder rock star father has abandoned him and his mother has moved in with her boyfriend and left him to live on his own. Leonard spends his days with his elderly neighbor and avoiding bullies at school. For his birthday he's decided he's going to kill his biggest tormentor at school and then himself.
The story is centered around Leonard Peacock giving these 4 gifts out to the people who matter most to him. There are actually 5 gifts because Leonard cuts off his hair to give to his mother, which was kinda funny. Most of the book is somewhat on the sad/dramatic sad with a bit of sarcasm and dry humor to break things up a bit. The part with Lauren, the Christian, was pretty funny, I think that was probably the best part. This book was a little angsty and I think teenagers will probably identify more with it than adults.
I almost didn't finish this book. I absolutely did not like Leonard in the beginning. I knew that he was being a typical self centered teen, but I kept thinking to myself "Get over yourself". Autumn convinced me to keep going. As the book progressed and I learned more of Leonard's story, I started to like him and really feel bad for him. What he reveals about his best friend was horrifying and heartbreaking. I could kind of understand how hw got to that point.
I think this would be a great book for teens. The overall message that it does get better if you are willing to put in the work is one I think will appeal to a lot of teens. While Leonard isn't a very likable kid, I think most readers will end up rooting for him. I think this is a book that will sit with me for a long while.