Books in the Park

suggestions from the Barbara S. Ponce Public Library at Pinellas Park

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Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, by Matthew Quick

forgive me quickJust thought I’d clear the air and tell you that this is my favorite book that I’ve read all year. I’m totally biased and will only say awesome things about this book and the author.

It’s Leonard Peacock’s 18th birthday, and he’s eating breakfast alone. His rockstar father left a few years back and his ex-model mom is so obsessed with her career in fashion that she’s totally forgotten this momentous day. Leonard has special plans for his first day as an adult: he’s going to murder his former best friend and then kill himself with a Nazi pistol he inherited from his grandfather. But before he can complete this murder/suicide, he must hand-deliver four gifts to the people to whom he wishes to say goodbye. These four individuals are all vastly different and have impacted Leonard’s life in ways he struggles to fully understand but must acknowledge before he ends his life. Leonard, prior to his birthday, would often take days off school to dress up in a suit and ride the train. From there he’d find the most miserable looking adult on their way to work and follow them hoping for insights into adulthood. Leonard is not buying the whole “It gets better” campaign. When not on the train he exclusively hangs out with his elderly neighbor watching old Bogart movies or writes letters from his future self/family to his present self. Leonard’s mind is cluttered and often his thoughts and words are not expressed in the way he’d like which often makes other people uncomfortable.

As we follow Leonard through the delivery of his parting gifts, the history of his mental instability is made clear and we see how he struggles to rationalize the killing of an old friend and himself. There are several nods to the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings not just in direct reference but also in dialog and choice of words like “uber morons”. While Forgive Me does have a lot of humor and fantastical moments, it does not skim over the severity of what Leonard plans to do. Quick has done something pretty unique here by writing a story from the side of a potential murderer. He clearly does not take this topic lightly and does a fine job addressing issues that most people are too squeamish to even think about. I recommend this title to those who liked We Need to Talk About Kevin, those interested in the effects of mental illness, and those looking for a great story of perseverance but aren’t too weak in the knees.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock.

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The Silver Linings Playbook, by Matthew Quick

silver linings quickPat Peoples is in a bad place. After a mysterious incident with his wife several years earlier, Pat was placed in a neural health facility where he becomes obsessed with making the “movie of his life” have a silver lining. He will end the Apart Time with his wife Nikki and she will be impressed with his new physical strength and emotional depth. Pat is released into his mother’s care and has a fitful time trying to adapt to his old life. His own father won’t even speak to him unless their favorite sports team, the Eagles, are winning. Pat reconnects with an old friend and their encounters are uncomfortable and forced. However, despite his social dilemmas with friends and family, Pat meets and befriends Tiffany. Tiffany lost her husband suddenly and has since been clinically depressed. She’s been fired from her job and now spends all her time dancing and looking for men to distract her from the loss of her husband. The Pat and Tiffany begin a strange friendship where they run together in silence and share bowls of Corn Flakes at a local diner. The two both have giant emotional hurdles to overcome and together with a little help from the Dance Away Depression competition they begin to heal.

I loved this book! I saw the movie first a few years back but obviously the book has so much more. Matthew Quick’s character development and writing style are spectacular. Quick often uses repetitive and awkward inner monologues to indicate Pat’s mental instability and it’s just fantastically done. I highly recommend this title to literally everyone. It’s got sports, family, romance, and… a silver lining.

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Silver Linings Playbook.

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A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy, by Sue Klebold

klebold-motherOn April 20, 1999, two young men, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, went to their high school prepared to kill their classmates. They came with guns and home-made bombs. Fifteen people would die that day and dozens of others would be injured. When these tragedies are heard on the news they come with a pretty standard running dialogue. There are those that blame poor parenting (“How could they NOT know?!”), lack of gun control, mental illness, and inherent evil. These varied responses stem from the need to rationalize, to make sense of such senseless acts.

Sue Klebold, Dylan’s mother, writes a deeply honest and detailed account of what her family was like before and after Columbine. As an advocate for mental health and suicide prevention, Sue delves into her own and Dylan’s journals looking for traces of evidence that her beloved son could be capable of murder and suicide. While she adamantly accepts what her son participated, she also wants the world to know that she honestly had no idea; this could happen even to your family. What is it that turns an introspective, depressed teen into a killer?

Mrs. Klebold has clearly done her research. On almost every page she quotes from an article or an expert in their field. I believe this is her honest attempt at honoring both the victims of Columbine and her son. That day she too lost a son, a boy who used to make her origami presents to cheer her up and gave endless cuddles when he was little. On these pages Sue Klebold tells us how she came to terms with the Dylan of her memory and the Dylan seen in the basement tapes with Eric Harris.

I recommend this title, but grab a tissue box. It’s a very heavy read and Mrs. Klebold does not hold back. This book is unique from others on the same topic as we rarely get the perspective of the family. Both scientific and down-to-Earth, this is an interesting read for all types of people.

Check the PPLC Catalog for A Mother’s Reckoning.

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The Skeleton Cupboard by Tanya Byron

skeleton cupboardTanya Byron starts off her story by telling her readers that every patient she discusses in this pseudo-memoir is fake. She says that she created them from dozens of people and experiences and that this story is actually about what it takes to become a clinical psychologist, proving that just because some people are trained to help you with your problems doesn’t mean they can handle their own. Byron wants you to know that everyone struggles and that the path to sanity/clarity isn’t always simple or what you expect. Saying all of that, I connected with every patient. Every story told I could easily believe and honestly wished for them to be okay. Byron messed with my emotions with fake patients! I felt like I should have been angry—robbed of being able to google videos of their personal testimonials of achieving emotional well-being.

Byron walks her readers through her different placements and training exercises where she meets a violent sociopath, a silent twelve year old determined to kill herself, a beautiful and talented teenage girl who is starving herself to keep her family together, and a wildly successful clothing designer dying of AIDS. The Skeleton Cupboard reads like a mystery novel with enough intrigue and twists to get anyone interested despite the fact that we’re talking clinical psychology. This is a great book for anyone interested or personally touched by mental illness. Byron’s clear, ethical, and sympathetic prose makes for an amazing memoir and examination of the psychiatric systems evolution in the UK.

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Skeleton Cupboard.