For every book we read during the book club, we’ll write a review so that anyone who couldn’t be there can still join in with the fun! Saskia den Ouden is our new YA book club reviewer, judging all the books we read.
Have you ever wondered what motivated people like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to do the things they did? Did you ever meditate on what it would take for you to break so completely that you would want to kill someone else and subsequently yourself? Forgive me, Leonard Peacock is a look in the day of such a teenager.
The story starts on the morning of Leonard’s 18th birthday when he wraps the gifts that he has prepared for the four important people in his life. Then he packs up his grandfather’s old P-38 pistol before he sets off on his last day on earth. Through his day we learn the circumstances Leonard is in (neglected, lonely, suffering from a mental disorder) and why he is preparing to kill his former best friend Asher. We meet the important people in his life; Walt, the old Bogart-fan; Baback, the violin genius; Lauren, the hardcore Christian; and Herr Silverman, the Holocaust teacher and what they have represented to Leonard in his life.
To be honest, Leonard is not a nice person. He is pretentious, self absorbed, with little regard to other people’s feelings. It’s interesting that some people around him describe him as deeply empathetic, when he can’t see past the surface of his classmates and sticks them in the über-moron category. The fact that Quick doesn’t gloss over it, is commendable. So often do authors skip over the flaws of their main characters so the reader will like them. But I don’t think it was Quick’s intention for us to like him, but to relate to Leonard. Although I don’t have experiences of the main character, nor have I had any inclination to kill anyone else, I was a mixed up teenager once upon a time and I always had the sneaking suspicion that I was also not that likeable. And I think if my own circumstances were slightly worse, I might’ve snapped like Leonard did.
Some may see this book as a list of reasons for Leonard’s behavior (and by extension other school shooters), but I see it as an enlightenment. We never get to see in the heads of these people. We may hear that they were mentally disturbed or influenced by music or drugs, but their circumstances often stay a mystery. And I think that’s so we can distance ourselves from these shooters, while they tend to be a lot less different than we think they are. To borrow a quote: “we can simultaneously be human and monster—that both of those possibilities are in all of us.”
However, as good as that insight was, I was severely disappointed by the ending. I won’t spoil it here, but the way the book ended was what I expected, but not how I personally wanted it to go. This may be a spoiler, but it felt like a huge cop out on the writer’s part. It ends on a hopeful note and I understand why the author chose that ending, but I just wish he’d had a little bit more balls.