Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
(Hachette Audio, 2013)
Format: audio download via library (narrated by Noah Galvin)
From Goodreads: "How would you spend your birthday if you knew it would be your last?
Eighteen-year-old Leonard Peacock knows exactly what he'll do. He'll say goodbye.
Not to his mum - who he calls Linda because it annoys her - who's moved out and left him to fend for himself. Nor to his former best friend, whose torments have driven him to consider committing the unthinkable. But to his four friends: a Humphrey-Bogart-obsessed neighbour, a teenage violin virtuoso, a pastor's daughter and a teacher.
Most of the time, Leonard believes he's weird and sad but these friends have made him think that maybe he's not. He wants to thank them, and say goodbye."
This is a mostly lovely book I wouldn't have run across without the Audies awards. (Hey, guess what? I'm participating in the Armchair Audies again this year! It's so much fun for me.) (I'm going to listen to Literary Fiction, Narration by the Author or Authors, and Teens.)
So, Leonard Peacock is going to kill his former best friend, and then himself, on his 18th birthday. (This is well-established from the start; no spoilers.) There's some bad history there, which is especially difficult for a loner like Leonard (abandoned by both parents, though his mother stops by the suburbs sometimes from her far more glamorous life in Manhattan.) Before he goes, he brings gifts to the four people who have made life bearable for him, and each of those encounters reveals a bit more of how Leonard got to this desperate point.
The novel is gracefully structured and the four lifelines, while perhaps a tad over-eccentric as a whole, were fun characters to explore, especially in audio. Noah Galvin has fun with the Bogart-quoting old man, in particular, and the anti-"parking" comic handed out by the born-again pastor's daughter. (Leonard's relationship to that daughter was the most difficult part of the book for me. Perhaps it is just entirely true to the teenage-boy-ness of Leonard, but his aggressive refusal to take 'no, not interested' from the girl because his libido overrode him took me out of the story and removed a lot of good-will and sympathy towards Leonard I had built up.)
The sensitivity and emotion of Galvan's reading was often very affecting, and I was glad to spend several hours in the company of this particular smart, out-of-place, damaged teen.