Today’s Book Whimsy has a less than cheerful theme. Each of these three young adult contemporary novels confronts suicide in its own, and although they all take the important issue seriously, there is definitely a standout in terms of which one I enjoyed reading the most.
Random by Tom Leveen* is a young adult novel with a very current subject matter– cyberbullying. It begins with Tori receiving a phone call and while it seems to be a wrong number, the caller makes her promise not to hang up. First he needs something from her; a reason not to kill himself. Tori isn’t sure if he’s serious, but it hits pretty closely to home considering Tori is already facing the threat of jail after her Facebook page became a exhibit in the trial for a classmate that committed suicide.
Unfortunately, even though this short novel managed to keep me hooked and reading, I both didn’t like the main character, nor the big “twist” that happens at the end. It is an intense novel, but beneath that intensity there wasn’t much that I’d have to recommend about this novel, which is disappointing because I have read a contemporary book–Zero–by Leveen a few years ago that I really enjoyed. I also can’t really explain how weird and bad the ending is without major spoilers, but take my word, with Random you might as well skip finding out.
Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira* is a book I was incredibly excited to read because of the interesting concept and what seemed to be beautiful writing. It’s the story Laurel writes to a a handful of dead people people like Kurt Cobain, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse, talking about her life and her sister, May, who died recently. I was right, Dellaira’s words are gorgeous, but what happened to Laurel and to May unravels incredibly slowly, which meant the book had an incredibly difficult time maintaining my attention.
There’s a romance that unfolds between Laurel and Sky, a mysterious boy that everyone is interested in but that somehow Laurel captures his attention, despite not really having much interesting about her. I thought that I would devour Love Letters to the Dead but it actually took me months to read, and pretty much put me in a reading slump, because I was just not interested enough to pick it back up. I feel like if you connect well with Laurel then that makes all the difference, but I didn’t, which meant that Dellaira’s debut was beautiful but boring for me.
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick is an incredibly intense, brilliant novel that I didn’t expect to be blown away by quite as much as I was but I honestly could not put down and devoured in a single day. It was that good. It takes place on Leonard Peacock’s birthday, which is also the day he will kill first his former best friend, and then himself. However, first he has to say goodbye to those who matter to him most, including a classmate, neighbour, and teacher.
Leonard’s voice is genuine and painful, he is an unusual and smart teenager who is going through a lot, and I really wanted things to turn out differently than how he promises at the beginning. Even though he is planning to do something awful, I was still rooting for him and felt a strong connection because of how real his voice is. Quick also does a fantastic job with all the secondary characters, each is unique and somewhat quirky, but still feels like a real person. Ultimately, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock has a complicated main character, smart prose, and a quick-paced, honest storyline. I highly recommend this one!