Author: Matthew Quick Published: January 2014 by Headline Book Publishing
Leonard Peacock is turning 18.
And he wants to say goodbye.
Not to his former best friend, whose torments have driven him to consider committing something tragic and horrific.
Nor to his mum who’s moved out and left him to fend form himself. But to his four friends.
A Humphrey-Bogart-obsessed neighbour
A teenage violin virtuoso
A pastor’s daughter
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 bid them farewell.
I’ve read a lot of books about depression and suicide. I have had Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder) for most of my adult life (and probably most of my young adult life, undiagnosed) and find that I can relate well to these characters, draw from their experiences and relate them back to mine, learn from them, grow with them etc, etc, etc. But this book was more than that to me. Unlike All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, in which one of the main characters does, after much fighting against it, eventually kill himself; Leonard, is so adamant to let it consume him and end his life, and he doesn’t fight it. Leonard has accepted his fate, his doom, his demise. And he is content with it, not accepting that anyone can actually help him, regardless of whether he wants them to save him or not. Leonard’s story is about goodbye, not about battling his inner demons; Leonard’s demons have, seemingly, already won.
And that’s one of the things I really like about this book. The gritty, harsh reality of it. Because a lot of the time, (especially at that age, when the bigger picture is so very difficult to see,) giving up is the easiest option. Giving in to the desire, the burning ache, to just end everything and be done with it, is real. Leonard is a little quirky, as most male protagonists in YA lit are these days, but I like his quirks, they’re subtle and cool and even though he doesn’t seem to fit in in his shitty high school, he’d certainly feel at home in college or university. He’s smart, but he is humble. I really liked Leonard’s character.
What I loved secondly about this book, was it’s ability to keep what happened between Leonard and Asher – likely the catalyst for Leonard’s depression – under wraps until Leonard actually allowed himself to think about. Leonard had hidden it away in the deepest, darkest recesses of his mind, and did not want to think about it, and so the reader didn’t get to know about it either. The information on each character that Leonard was saying goodbye to came when, and if, it was needed.
I also loved, wholeheartedly, the mix of non-traditional prose in this novel. There are three main prose forms in this book: the main traditional prose through which Leonard’s story is told, footnotes to the story to add in after thoughts, additional information and anecdotes that Leonard feels the reader ought to know or to give context, and lastly the letters that Leonard writes ‘from the future’ to his teenage self. This kept the book interesting, even if the letters don’t make sense at first.
The characters, as few of them as there are, also helped to keep this book interesting. Actually, not even really the characters themselves, more the stories behind the way each character was connected to Leonard, and the thoughts that Leonard has about them, how he feels about them, and the ideas he conjures in his own imagination about each one.Herr Silverman was the one I definitely found the most interesting, the way he actually cares about Leonard, ad in a way that Leonard doesn’t even understand. In the end, even though he only kind of admits it, Leonard is glad that there was at least one person, one adult that he could turn to, talk to, and who might even be able to save him. The way Leonard sees Herr Silverman instills in the reader that eternal little blip of hope, that maybe they really aren’t completely alone. And this little blip of hope is IMPORTANT, it sends a great message to anyone that might relate closely with Leonard and his view of the world. The true, gritty insight into Leonards mind is exceedingly well written, engaging and honest, and I LOVED it. I’m sincerely looking forward to picking up more books by Matthew Quick!
Again, I have to say: It’s important to reach out for help if you think you might be suffering from depression, sometimes this is the hardest step to recovery. If you don’t feel like you can talk to anyone in your life, sometimes an anonymous ear to listen can go a long way, contacting a counselling service can save a life, or even just someone online who understands what you’re going through (yes, this is an invitation to email me if you ever need to talk to someone). Check out Beyond Blue for more information on battling depression, or suicidal thoughts.