Rated 4 stars **** 2013. Little, Brown & Company (Hachette Book Group). 273 pp.
Leonard Peacock is very angry because today is his 18th birthday and no one remembered, including his own absentee mother who moved to New York and left him alone in New Jersey. To celebrate he cuts off all his hair, and wraps presents to deliver to four people who made a difference in his life. He plans to end the day by killing his former best friend with his grandfather’s old World War II gun then killing himself.
Through Leonard’s first person accounts, letters written to himself in the future, and copious footnotes, readers see someone who is highly intelligent, misunderstood, hurt and confused. His next-door neighbor Walt, and World War II Holocaust teacher Herr Silverman are the only ones with whom he can be himself. With Walt he can watch Humphrey Bogart movies and disappear into a fantasy life, while Herr Silverman challenges him creatively, making him feel like a real person who matters in life.
Gradually readers come to see why Leonard is so desperate, and gain understanding into the person he was forced to become by those in his life who hurt him. The pain he suffers, and the solutions he chooses to ease that pain, are explored in detail and will give readers food for thought. Hopefully Leonard’s story will enable teens suffering through this kind of pain to realize there is hope, and that suicide isn’t the answer to their problems.
Recommended for ages 14 and older.