"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton
This is where I chronicle my reading life. I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.
"But really--why do some people post the correct ways to commit suicide on the Internet? Do they want weird, sad people like me to go away permanently? Do they think it's a good idea for some people to off themselves?"
I didn't expect to love this book, or even like it. The main reason it caught my interest was because I read a review that mentioned a post-apocalyptic subplot woven throughout it. That made me perk up.
The post-apocalyptic portions aren't really a subplot, but that's okay, because this book is phenomenal anyway. It follows Leonard Peacock through his 18th birthday, the day he believes will be his last day on earth, as he's planning to kill a classmate and then himself. Usually, books that so clearly borrow from high-profile news stories annoy me, but this book brings you so close to Leonard that you'll find your heart dripping with compassion for him, hoping against hope that he doesn't carry out his plan. Leonard's voice is probably what made this book most compelling for me, as it's one of the most authentic teen voices I've encountered in fiction. This authenticity made me remember my own teenage years with startling vividness, to the point that I struggled with depression for the exact same reason that Leonard does: I was convinced that it wasn't possible to be an adult and be happy.
"Show me it's possible to be an adult and also be happy. Please."
I could read this book and see Leonard as I would see him as an adult who works with teens, much the way his teacher Herr Silverman saw him. I could also see how I would have responded to him as a teen myself -- I would have felt uncomfortable and thought he was strange and perhaps creepy. But really, he's just another kid absolutely confused about why terrible things are allowed to happen in the world, putting the pieces together and trying to make sense of it in spite of that. A lot of his observations are very thought provoking, too, like this one:
"...[B]usinesses in the city have security guards but my high school doesn't. Maybe it will after today. But why protect adults and not children?"
This book deals with a shocking topic in the best possible way -- by humanizing and refusing to sensationalize it. Although comparisons to 13 Reasons Why make sense, this book accomplishes its goals with more mastery than Asher's own fictional reflection on teen suicide, and it includes an ending I could live with to boot.