From School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up–Leonard Peacock has big plans for his 18th birthday. He plans to kill Asher Beal and then commit suicide. Leonard is a loner, an outcast, a misfit. Asher is a superpopular jock/bully. But they used to be friends, best friends. Something happened when they were 12, something bad. Leonard has had no one to confide in–his washed-up rock-musician dad is on the lam and his self-absorbed, oblivious mother forgets that she has a son. His anger, emotional pain, and brokenness build until he feels there is nothing left to do but end his life and the cause of his misery. As he gives gifts to the four people who mean something to him, he reveals some of his anguish. One recipient, his teacher Herr Silverman, picks up on his suicidal signals and offers the listening ear Leonard so desperately needs. As the heartbreaking climax unfolds, readers learn about the sexual and emotional trauma the teen has endured. Fortunately, there is no bloodshed, just the shedding of many overdue tears. Leonard knows he needs help and readers will hope he gets it. This is a difficult, yet powerful, book. Quick's use of flashbacks, internal dialogue, and interpersonal communication is brilliant, and the suspense about what happened between Leonard and Asher builds tangibly. The masterful writing takes readers inside Leonard's tormented mind, enabling a compassionate response to him and to others dealing with trauma. May there be more Herr Silvermans willing to take personal risks to save the Leonard Peacocks.–Lisa Crandall, formerly at the Capital Area District Library, Holt, MIα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
It’s Leonard’s eighteenth birthday and, big surprise, nobody remembered. This birthday, however, is going to count—because Leonard plans to shoot cruel bully (and former best friend) Asher Beal after school. First, though, there is the small matter of gift giving, in which Leonard delivers four presents to the four people who made his “worthless” life a little better: a noir film–loving neighbor, a violin prodigy classmate, a superhot teen evangelist, and his favorite teacher. The single-day time frame provides a good deal of claustrophobic tension, as readers will hope against hope that one of these four people will be able to deflect Leonard from his mission. But this is far from a thriller; Quick is most interested in Leonard’s psychology, which is simultaneously clear and splintered, and his voice, which is filled with brash humor, self-loathing, and bucket loads of refreshingly messy contradictions, many communicated through Leonard’s footnotes to his own story. It may sound bleak, but it is, in fact, quite brave, and Leonard’s interspersed fictional notes to himself from 2032 add a unique flavor of hope. Grades 8-11. --Daniel Kraus