Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock – Book Review

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
A teacher

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.

matthewquick-forgivemeleonardpeacockI’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.

tumblr_ms5g74snHw1rkciaro1_500I 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.

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Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge: A Book that Became a Movie (t’s not a movie yet, but a movie is in the works)

Images via: Here, here, here,

Playlist for the Dead, Book Review

Published: 2015 by HarperTeen

 

As he listens to song after song, Sam tries to face up to what happened the night Hayden killed himself. But it’s only by taking out his earbuds and opening his eyes to the people around him that he will finally be able to piece together his best friend’s story. And maybe have a chance to change his own.

I’m going to admit something a little strange – I purchased this book based solely on the names of the main characters: Sam and Hayden. For those of you that know me, that may make sense, even though it isn’t all that significant. But for anyone else, a little clarification:

My name is Sam, and my first serious relationship was with a guy called Hayden. It’s a long way in the past now, and has no real significant bearing on my life, but it was funny, so I bought the book.

Looking past my reason for buying it, I did read the blurb and the premise of the story was promising, simply and clear. The story itself though is emotional and complicated, and that’s a good thing. The story centres around the suicide of Hayden, Sam’s best friend. Sam finds Hayden the morning after a party, withnote to sam PFTDno note, but instead, a USB stick, with a scrap of paper…

Each chapter is set to the melancholy tune of one of the songs from Hayden’s playlist, with tracks like Blink 182’s Adam’s Song and Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. (You can find a playlist of all the songs oer on 8tracks, made by sydneyteresa). The songs are fitting, dreary, sad, hopeless, and the consequential chapters flow around each song, exploring Sam’s emotions and his struggle to figure out why. The novel is well written, but still very easy to read, without being over-the-top or obnoxious at all. The language is that a teenager would probably use in daily life, and that just makes the book all the more relatable. Reading the book, I fully believed I was in the mind of a 15-year-old boy. It was refreshingly simple.

The themes explored though, are contrastingly not. Suicide, primarily, but also Sam’s guilt for what he feels is his part of the blame, guilt for seemingly moving on, first love and the feelings associated with attraction to the opposite sex, depression and also the frustration he feels at wanting the others he believes are at fault to pay for their crimes.

playlist of the dead

Told from Sam’s perspective, we experience the journey through his eyes, and we see the characters as he wants to see them – the bullies as bullies without their own problems, and Astrid as a gorgeous, amazing person, and not the sneaky deviant that she actually is. As Sam learns that these people aren’t what they may have always seemed to him, he begins to realise that maybe Hayden wasn’t all he seemed either, and he begins, slowly, to somewhat understand why Hayden might have committed suicide. He also begins to unravel the stories that tie them all together regarding Hayden’s decision.

Having had a fight the night before at a party, which they wouldn’t normally have gone to, Sam blames himself for the whole thing. But the more people he opens up to, and finds out about, the more he startsimageto figure out what actually happened, and that there was more to it than just what he had experienced. Falkoff writes this in such a way, bit by bit, that you can’t help but want to keep reading just to find out what happened. It was this clever way of spreading out how Sam found out each piece of the story that kept me reading, and why mention that the story is more complicated than just Sam dealing with his grief over the death of his friend.

The book is a little similar to Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why, though not quite as isolated and intense (I preferred Thirteen Reasons Why), however it is a nice easy read and keeps you hooked long enough to finished it.

4outof5

 

Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge: A book published this year
 
 Images from: here, here, here, here

The Ups and Downs and ‘Are you Okays?’ Of Bipolar

Mental illness is not an excuse. It’s not a scapegoat and it’s not a free ride. It’s hard and crushing and difficult, and it can break lives apart. Or you can do your best to live with it and make the most of the hand you’ve been dealt.

I was first diagnosed with manic depression, also known as bipolar disorder, when I went through a particularly hard break-up during my university years, I was 24 years old. It was scary and difficult and my friends at the time didn’t really understand it. To be honest, people around me now still don’t really understand it. There are only so many times you can answer ‘Are you Okay?’ with ‘There’s nothing wrong’ when people are poking and prodding and not have them believe you because they simply don’t understand.

The thing about bipolar is that there usually is no reason for the down periods. You are not just sad, you are not just having a bad day. You are depressed, and that is not something that you can’t just shake off and get over. It’s not that easy. I can manage my depression, I’m not suicidal, I haven’t taken medication in a few years and that’s something I’m usually quite proud of. But every now and again I have a bad day or a bad week and I’m just down. I’m not bubbly, or happy, or fun; I’m just down, with a side of irritability and anxiousness. Not many people can do anything to make me feel better (there are a small handful who can), and most people just seem to think that asking what is wrong and enticing me to talk is going to help. And to be honest, it doesn’t. It’s just more frustrating.

Most of the time I’m fine. It’s not something that I introduce myself to the world with – ‘Hi I’m Sam and I have Bipolar’. No, that is not a label that I tend to advertise to the world as easily as I do being a geek or a writer.

5bebe4e4a9faf853d301d917772b3f44Bipolar is a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes extreme mood swings. I can be exceedingly happy and grateful and positive, and then other times you couldn’t get any lower, you just want to close the curtains and curl into a ball and cry, and cry, and cry. If you are genuinely interested in what bipolar is you can find out more at the hundreds of websites that have been set up in support of people with bipolar disorder, but here’s a handy infograph to make it easy.

I’m very lucky that I have a very supportive family, friends and boyfriend. But there are always the odd few who will never understand and make it their business to get all up in your business. Being anxious and over self-aware and judgemental, kinda miserable and very irritable leads to a not very positive response to the constant ‘Are you Okay?’s ‘What’s really wrong’s and persistent ‘Why are you so sad? Just be happy’s. I know most people think they mean well, but these comments are toxic. They drive you to believe that there must be something wrong with you, that you can’t just be you, that there’s a reason, there has to be a reason, and they desperately need to know what that reason is. I can’t tell you how sick I am of making excuses, of coming up with some reason or another as to why I’m not my ‘bubbly self’ this week. The truth is, that that ‘bubbly’ side isn’t really me either, that’s the up that shows such a harsh contrast to my more frequent down.

a93a931f6a60a535d76b44eee2d941e3Having said that, my bipolar is not an excuse either. When I am asked the question ‘What’s wrong’ and the answer is ‘nothing’, that is the truth. When I say it’s my bipolar, that is not an excuse, that is what is actually happening, it’s fact. And it’s not easy, I would LOVE for the answer to be something else, like having a fight with my boyfriend or getting a shitty fine. While shitty things influence my mood in general, I’m not saying they don’t, when it is bipolar, it’s not caused by anything, there is no catalyst. I don’t know what mood I’ll be in when I wake up in the morning, I can’t predict how I’ll feel. I don’t know what’s coming and unpredictability is really scary. People have left me in the past for less than a depressed week, they can’t handle the mood swings, the ups and downs, the snappiness, the unpredictability. This is partially why I had such a deep distrust of men, thinking they were constantly doing wrong by me, not knowing the whole time that I was, and not narcissistically, the problem.

I’ve found a place where, aside from the constant lack of understanding, I am able for the most part to manage my illness, and am actually leading a very normal, and boring, little life. I just wish that other people could leave me alone to do it in peace without needed to know what the catalyst is for every bad day – because sometimes, it’s you.

At the end of the day, it’s frustrating that there is such a lack of understanding and a huge amount of taboo still placed on mental illnesses. So many people don’t understand them, and that lack of understanding affects people with mental illnesses every day. So yeah, it’s nice to care, and it’s nice to have people who care, and asking someone who is sad if they are okay, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But an understanding of what that person is actually dealing with, what they are actually going through, would help them a whole lot more.

You can also read my essay: Stress and its effects as a result of Bipolar Disorder Including Interventions to Treating Stress for more information.

Lost Things

I’ve lost my Batman Tshirt.

We all lose things, and for the most part, we all find it frustrating. It’s always something we need immediately, and it’s always in the last place we look – obviously, we stop looking one we find it, right? If only it were as easy as attaching little beepers to everything that made little whistles when we call or clap – but unfortunately, not everything we lose can be found, and sometimes that’s a choice.

One of the few things I find more frustrating than losing something though, is when I lend or give something to someone and they lose it, misplace it or throw it away. I’ve found this has been happening more and more frequently of late, and sadly, this is making me less inclined to lend or give things to my friends. Friends are meant to be the ones we can trust, the ones we can open up to and be ourselves with. When they lose things of ours, our trust, our friendship – it seriously does nothing less than suck.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m talking about personal relationships. When you give someone your trust, love, friendship and a part of yourself and they don’t take care of it. even worse is when they throw it away. I’ve recently lost a number of friends, each through different circumstances, and it has left me wondering what you do in those situations? Unfortunately, there isn’t a ‘universal friend’ that you can go out and buy for $20 to replace the original that was lost. Unfortunately, it may stand, that we can never replace those that we lose, and are forced to endure the agony of having everything we see, hear, smell and do remind us of their absence in our life.