This is a beautiful, gut-wrenching book. It's wonderfully written and very well performed. It's a first person narrative, and so successfully performed that I have no trouble believing that I've been listening to Leonard Peacock himself reading his story, backed up by the other characters who speak through him.
First, the story: I've never read anything by Matthew Quick before. In fact, I wouldn't normally even try a story about a suicidal (and possibly homicidal) teenager. But Quick's writing is full of honesty, clarity, poetry and humanity, and the character of Leonard is so well drawn and interesting that I found myself not wanting him to kill himself because the world needs people like Leonard Peacock in it; and I want to meet Leonard and know him.
And now I'm wondering if the paragraph I just wrote will look good in my college application. (Read the book and you'll know why I said that.)
Because just for the record ... and for my college application ... I wouldn't have wanted him to commit suicide even if he was a spectacularly unlikeable person.
Everything in the story is emotionally real, for good and ill. Quick is obviously an insightful and empathetic observer of people. His writing is full of compassion, but never glides over the messy bits, even when part of me wanted him to.
Second, the narration: Just absolutely perfect. The different voices are distinguished nicely, with each character (male and female) given distinctiveness and believability but without sounding forced or like caricatures. But mostly, the voice is Leonard's, and it's completely believable and good to listen to. Even if Noah Galvin is a middle-aged, cigar-chomping rodeo announcer in real life, to me he will forever be a teenage boy from New Jersey.
Finally, the recommendation: Read the book (well, listen to the book). You'll laugh. You'll cry. You may have to stop to write down a few words and phrases (I did), or to look up a few historical facts (Walt Disney was a Nazi sympathizer, who knew?) And if you're paying any attention at all to what's going on in Leonard's head, you'll be a better person when you're done.
Oh, and you may feel the urge to watch Casablanca a few times as well.