Jean, 39, lover of sci-fi, horror and fantasy, reader of comic books, conqueror of genre fiction.
I really wanted to like this book. Silver Linings Playbook is on my favorites shelf, and while I had no idea what this book was about when I picked it up, the premise intrigued me just reading the jacket summary. And the book has some definite high points which very nearly pushed this up to three stars; but then it had some awesomely bad points that dragged it down.
I hate getting personal in reviews, but I wanted to give a sense of context, so I'm going for it in this one: I was suicidal as a teen. I was undiagnosed bi-polar borderline psychotic. I wanted to identify with Leonard, I really did; even if our personalities differed, the fact that high school was hell should have been enough to bond with this character.
But problems abound. Even I was aware that there were many, many different kinds of people that make up a class, and from Leonard's point of view, they're all just stupid sheep, which stinks of the kind of mentality school shooters have when they open fire into a crowd. Band geeks, D&D nerds, fat girls--they were all having their own problems. And if this was addressed at all... But it isn't, as Leonard barely seems concerned with his peers. At all. And that shows that this was written by an adult trying to get into the mindset of a teen: Leonard shows only a sort of passing, passive kind of contemptuous awareness of his classmates, but he's looking at the adults to save him. To notice him. At one point in the novel, he reflects on a point when he might have been able to save not only himself, but Asher as well, and dismisses it by saying that he was just a kid and kids shouldn't be expected to do that sort of thing. This is what is fundamentally wrong with the novel. I never trusted adults, even when it seemed like they were my only friends. I never looked to them as saviors; I wanted my PEERS to understand and notice me. And to take control of the bullying, to call each other on it. Because my world didn't revolve around adults, as precocious as I was.
It's only with the two adults in his life, of the four he wants to give presents to, to say goodbye to, that they come to an understanding after the fact; he further alienates the two teens and doesn't seem to care.
By the by, the pink triangle was the symbol of gay rights in the 80s, and if Herr Silverman truly is middle-aged, and was part of the same movement my sister was in the mid-to-late-80s, this is what he'd tell Leonard, and probably have "Silence = Death" tattooed along with it.
The footnotes really got on my nerves. It was okay when they were a line or two, but when they were entire stories that even bled onto the next page? I wanted to take a digital copy of the manuscript, copy and paste those bad boys right into the main body of the prose, because either it deserves to be said or it doesn't. And if it doesn't, why am I reading it?
Also? Not good to perpetuate unsubstantiated rumors about famous people: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walt_dis... Shame on you, Herr Silverman, because even though cases have been made for the complicated issue of Walt Disney's anti-Semitism, teaching that he was a Nazi sympathizer, considering the amount of propaganda he did for the American war effort, is negligible at best.
I agree with the message at the end, but it feels more like... the cadre of child psychologists Quick consulted with, and who are credited in the acknowledgments, came up with it as "the right thing" more than it is truly felt, and the book ends without dealing with medication or therapy, leaving one with the distinct impression that simply the desire to want and believe things will get better will do it for someone with a mental illness--which is, unfortunately, not the way the world works.
And, in the end, the book left me with... nothing. I didn't care. And considering how close I am to the issue, that's a very bad thing. There were parts that struck at my heart, parts where I felt I truly understood and empathized with Leonard, and then they blew away in a light breeze, because they just weren't substantial enough.