Monday, December 16, 2013

Review: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Tags: young adult, contemporary, suicide, murder, bullying

Today is Leonard Peacock's birthday. It is also the day he hides a gun in his backpack. Because today is the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather's P-38 pistol.

But first he must say good-bye to the four people who matter most to him: his Humphrey Bogart-obsessed next-door neighbor, Walt; his classmate Baback, a violin virtuoso; Lauren, the Christian homeschooler he has a crush on; and Herr Silverman, who teaches the high school's class on the Holocaust. Speaking to each in turn, Leonard slowly reveals his secrets as the hours tick by and the moment of truth approaches.

In this riveting book, acclaimed author Matthew Quick unflinchingly examines the impossible choices that must be made—and the light in us all that never goes out. [summary from Goodreads]

FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK is arguably one of the most explosive and important books of this year, but if you knew nothing about Matthew Quick, most famously the author of Silver Linings Playbook, you probably wouldn't expect it. Which would be a shame on your part.

It was almost that way for me. In the beginning, I was rather unimpressed by Leonard as narrator. He seemed to come off as just another socially awkward teenager trying to hard to be nonchalant. But, like a hypnotist, his reasoning for why he was going to kill himself--his cool-headed explanations for why it was absurd to keep on living just to be just another blank-faced automaton adult in the rat race--snake-charmed its way into my head, until I found myself nodding along and thinking, "Oh man. This guy is absolutely right. What is the big deal about living when most adults are so unhappy? Why haven't I killed myself yet?"

You see, that is the power of this book. Its main character has a goal that we'd never condone, and yet it's not at all difficult for us to understand where he's coming from. Leonard Peacock is a totally convincing potential murder-suicide. That's why I feel like this book is so important: it's one of the most convincing looks inside the mindset of the ones behind the recent troubling trend of teenage killings.

Cover discussion: I normally don't really like text-art covers, but this one.... I mean, there is no way to adequately describe the experience you will get from reading this book, so I don't even care one way or another what's on the outside.

Little, Brown / Aug. 13, 2013 / Hardcover / 278pp. / $18.00

e-galley provided by publisher and NetGalley. Thank you!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Tags: YA, paranormal, vampires, romance

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

I'm not the type of reader to instantly dismiss all vampire stories out of vampire fatigue; as long as it's written well, I can enjoy it. And THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN is written well. It brings me back to Holly Black's Tithe era, with its grungy urban landscapes full of disaffected, multiply pierced, dyed-haired teenage characters who are simultaneously cooler and yet more vulnerable than you'll ever be. Black's narrative swirls between settings and time periods and points of view in a style that I imagine is like what being on raver drugs must feel like. Slightly disorienting, swirls of more-than-they-seem interactions and side-goings-on piquing the corners of your vision, disorienting your understanding of reality so slyly, so insidiously, that when you pause to take a breather from reading this story, you blink and for more than a second think that Black's world could very well exist, unobserved, in your own. Gavriel, the male vampire love interest, even gets me hot and bothered just like the icy-hot Roiben (Rath Roiben Rye, Rath Roiben Rye) of Tithe did.

Verdict? If you love your vampire tales slightly darker and hipper and more insane, get up this alley. If, like me, you spent your formative years gorging on Holly Black's classic urban fantasy YAs, get at this one. If you like your paranormals more romance-y and plot-driven, then this will probably not be your cup of tea.

Cover discussion: ...Wow. Somehow, in the time between when I read this (on my Kindle) and now, I had completely forgotten about the cover. I guess there's some implication in there about how uneventful this cover is...?

Little, Brown / Sept. 3, 2013 / Hardcover / 421pp. / $19.00

e-galley offered by publisher for review. Thank you!


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