This review and others are posted at Inspiring Insomnia.
Leonard Peacock is a high school student on a mission: He brings a gun to his school with the intention to kill a guy named Asher and then himself. Throughout most of the book, Leonard doesn't express much emotion. He approaches his intended date with murder and suicide very methodically. But before he can complete his final mission, he has a few tasks he must complete. Leonard seeks out four people to give each a gift to symbolize what that person meant to him. Each of the four responds in drastically different ways, from anger to suspicion to compassion.
Initially, we have no idea what drove Leonard to this decision. Leonard and Asher were best friends when they were younger, but something happened to drive them apart. When we meet Asher, he's leading his pack of friends in a bullying session of Leonard. It's only when Leonard loudly threatens to reveal a secret that Asher finally backs off.
It's pointed out that Leonard's behavior (giving away prized possessions and changing his appearance by chopping off his hair) are classic signs of someone contemplating suicide. And yet, with one very notable exception, no one questions Leonard, including his clueless and incredibly unlikable mother. Sometimes these bold behaviors are considered a cry for help, but I don't think that was the case here. Leonard had his plan, and he was merely taking the necessary steps to fulfill it.
For most of the book, Leonard didn't inspire a lot of compassion in me. Of course, I knew there had to be something awful that could drive him to want to end his life, but at one time in particular, he was so manipulative, and I just didn't like him at all in that moment. I think that was Quick's intention, though, and as the reasons for Leonard's suicide and murder wishes are slowly revealed, I felt terrible for my earlier reaction to him.
This is the first book by Matthew Quick I've read, and I now I want to read The Silver Linings Playbook even more.