Written by: Matthew Quick

We found happiness within its ruins.

The one line off the book that sums up all of Leonard Peacock’s dreams of the future perfectly.

The plot revolves around the (rather eccentric) whims of a (rather eccentric) eighteen-year-old boy, and their fulfillment (or lack thereof.)

Basically, the protagonist, who struggles under a perpetual conflict with his own mind, begins the narrative locked on two aims: to kill Asher Beal, his former best friend (for reasons I will not divulge), and then himself. On his eighteenth birthday, Leonard, following his usual routine, delivers four gifts to his four and only friends (two of whom do not exactly consider him a friend): Walt, his Humphrey Bogart and action film-devoted neighbor; Baback, his musical genius of a classmate; Lauren, his attractive but over-religious object of affection; and Herr Silverman, his Holocaust professor. Throughout the day, he alternately gives us an (sometimes intelligently humorous, other times just plain sad) overview of the happenings in his past life (which later led to its current messed up state) and narrates the goings-on in his present setting.

One of the highlights of the novel is the author’s daring (but unusually self-effacing) portrayal of the issues that today’s generation faces: depression, social alienation and inclination to suicide. Matthew Quick not only manages to exhibit these matters which the older generation fails (or refuses) to acknowledge; he also presents to us the best ways to prevent, or in worse cases, subdue them (as shown in Leonard’s Letters From the Future.)

But the most poignant parts of the book appear when Herr Silverman (one of the aforementioned friends, but one who actually genuinely cares about Leonard) draws comparisons between the events of the holocaust period to those of the 21st century.

Raw, compelling, and evocative, it is rare that a contemporary literary work can possess this much ability to incorporate so much laid-back intellect (why does that seem ironic?) and intensity in a few hundred pages.