Category Archives: Matthew Quick

Review: The Reason You’re Alive by Matthew Quick

Title: The Reason You’re Alive by Matthew Quick
Publisher: 240 pages
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 240 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

The New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook offers a timely novel featuring his most fascinating character yet, a Vietnam vet embarking on a quixotic crusade to track down his nemesis from the war.

After sixty-eight-year-old David Granger crashes his BMW, medical tests reveal a brain tumor that he readily attributes to his wartime Agent Orange exposure. He wakes up from surgery repeating a name no one in his civilian life has ever heard—that of a Native American soldier whom he was once ordered to discipline. David decides to return something precious he long ago stole from the man he now calls Clayton Fire Bear. It may be the only way to find closure in a world increasingly at odds with the one he served to protect. It may also help him to finally recover from his wife’s untimely demise.

As David confronts his past to salvage his present, a poignant portrait emerges: that of an opinionated and good-hearted American patriot fighting like hell to stay true to his red, white, and blue heart, even as the country he loves rapidly changes in ways he doesn’t always like or understand. Hanging in the balance are Granger’s distant art-dealing son, Hank; his adoring seven-year-old granddaughter, Ella; and his best friend, Sue, a Vietnamese American who respects David’s fearless sincerity.

Through the controversial, wrenching, and wildly honest David Granger, Matthew Quick offers a no-nonsense but ultimately hopeful view of America’s polarized psyche. By turns irascible and hilarious, insightful and inconvenient, David is a complex, wounded, honorable, and loving man. The Reason You’re Alive examines how the secrets and debts we carry from our past define us; it also challenges us to look beyond our own prejudices and search for the good in us all.

Review:

The Reason You’re Alive by Matthew Quick is a poignant and humorous novel about a politically incorrect Vietnam veteran’s attempts to come to terms with the traumatic experiences that continue to haunt him.

David Granger is a sixty-eight year old vet who is recovering from surgery to remove a brain tumor. A right-wing conservative with a liberal son,  David never hesitates to speak his mind nor does he make any attempt to hide his prejudices or temper his opinions.  He is surprisingly likable and sympathetic despite his caustic comments and somewhat cantankerous demeanor.  His disdain for his only son Hank and his intense dislike of his daughter-in-law in no way diminish his love and adoration of his seven-year old granddaughter Ella. David is a surprisingly multi-dimensional man with delightfully unexpected friendships and a willingness to lend a helping hand to those who are less fortunate and willing to work hard.

In the aftermath of his brain surgery, David becomes somewhat fixated on an incident that occurred while he was in country during the Vietnam War.  Deeply troubled by his actions all these years later, David cannot forget what he did to fellow soldier, Clayton Fire Bear. Terrified of what might happen to him should he locate Clayton, David nonetheless allows a good friend to tack down his nemesis.  Will he follow through with the plan to meet with Clayton? Will confronting his demons finally help David make peace with the horrors that continue to haunt him?

With a diverse cast of characters and a thought-provoking storyline, The Reason You’re Alive by Matthew Quick  is an absolutely compelling novel. David can be unapologetically offensive and abrasive yet, at the same time, he is incredibly kind, compassionate and patriotic. A laugh out loud funny and deeply affecting story of redemption that is ultimately quite uplifting.

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Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, Harper, Matthew Quick, Rated B, Review, The Reason You're Alive

Review: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Title: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
Publisher: Hachettte Book Group
Imprint: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Fiction
Length: 278 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

In addition to the P-38, there are four gifts, one for each of my friends. I want to say good-bye to them properly. I want to give them each something to remember me by. To let them know I really cared about them and I’m sorry I couldn’t be more than I was–that I couldn’t stick around–and that what’s going to happen today isn’t their fault.

Today is Leonard Peacock’s birthday. It is also the day he hides a gun in his backpack. Because today is the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather’s P-38 pistol.

But first he must say good-bye to the four people who matter most to him: his Humphrey Bogart–obsessed next-door neighbor, Walt; his classmate Baback, a violin virtuoso; Lauren, the Christian homeschooler he has a crush on; and Herr Silverman, who teaches the high school’s class on the Holocaust. Speaking to each in turn, Leonard slowly reveals his secrets as the hours tick by and the moment of truth approaches.

In this riveting book, acclaimed author Matthew Quick unflinchingly examines the impossible choices that must be made–and the light in us all that never goes out.

The Review:

Matthew Quick’s Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is a heartbreaking and compelling character study of a teenager who is on the verge of committing two unthinkable acts: killing a classmate then himself. This insightful novel is a must read for both teenagers and their parents.

Leonard Peacock is a very intelligent young man but he does not fit in with his fellow students. His mother has checked out of his life literally and figuratively so Leonard pretty much does as he pleases. His closest (and sadly, only) friend is his octogenarian next door neighbor Walt. They pass their time together watching old Bogart films and exchanging movie quotes. The only other positive role model in Leonard’s life is his favorite teacher, Herr Silverman.

All of Leonard’s unhappiness and confusion culminate on his eighteenth birthday. With his birthday forgotten by his incredibly self-absorbed and absentee mother, Leonard methodically goes about saying a final goodbye to the important people in his life. Walt and Herr Silverman are alarmed by his behavior and while they ask probing and pointed questions about his state of mind, Leonard insists he is fine.

Mr. Quick’s characterization of Leonard is amazingly accurate. I have an eighteen year old son and I went straight to the source after reading some of Leonard’s astute observations. Much to my amazement, he agreed completely with Leonard’s viewpoint. I must confess I am a little saddened by both my son’s and Leonard’s cynical outlook about society and adulthood.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is written in first person from Leonard’s point of view. The story is well-written and unique but a couple of things take some getting used to. The use of footnotes during the narrative was a little annoying in the beginning but I soon appreciated the insight I gleaned from them. The letters from the future came out of left field and while there is a reason for them, it would have been useful to have the explanation earlier in their story.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is a compelling and meaningful novel that I highly recommend. Matthew Quick handles some very difficult topics with sensitivity and he ultimately delivers a powerful message that will resonate with readers of all ages.

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Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, Forgive Me Leonard Peacock, Hachette Book Group, Little Brown for Young Readers, Matthew Quick, Rated B, Review, Young Adult

Guest Review: Boy21 by Matthew Quick (reviewed by Three Amigos)

Today’s review is a guest review by three teenage characters from Brad Boney’s The Nothingness of Ben: eighteen year old Quentin Walsh, his sixteen year old brother, Jason and Jason’s seventeen year old boyfriend, Jake McAlister. We hope you enjoy their thoughts on the young adult LGBT novel, Boy21 by Matthew Quick.


Title: Boy21 by Matthew Quick
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Imprint: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: 249 pages

Summary:

You can lose yourself in repetition–quiet your thoughts; I learned the value of this at a very young age.

Basketball has always been an escape for Finley. He lives in broken-down Bellmont, a town ruled by the Irish mob, drugs, violence, and racially charged rivalries. At home, his dad works nights, and Finley is left to take care of his disabled grandfather alone. He’s always dreamed of getting out someday, but until he can, putting on that number 21 jersey makes everything seem okay.

Russ has just moved to the neighborhood, and the life of this teen basketball phenom has been turned upside down by tragedy. Cut off from everyone he knows, he won’t pick up a basketball, but answers only to the name Boy21–taken from his former jersey number.

As their final year of high school brings these two boys together, a unique friendship may turn out to be the answer they both need.

Three Amigos’ Review:

Quentin Walsh:
I’m a wreck.

Jason Walsh: Me too.

Jake McAlister: I thought about you guys the whole time.

Quentin: Jason, did you know what you were doing when you picked this?

Jason: No. Jake and I were talking one night about how to promote the blog—

Jake: I’m obsessed with pageviews now.

Jason: —and he’s the one who came up with the idea of asking Kathy if we could do a book review, since she’s a super cool mom with boys of her own.

Jake: Plus, you already did that interview with Brad. So the readers know you.

Quentin: I’m all for stopping by Kathy’s site again. But—

Jason: Let me finish my story, please. So I was reading through my Google news, and I saw the finalists for the L.A. Times Book Prize. I’m not really a YA reader, because most of it’s for girls, but this was a finalist in the YA category, and it’s written for boys. The guy who wrote it, Matthew Quick, also wrote The Silver Linings Playbook, a movie we all three loved. I thought it was a perfect fit. But you know I never read blurbs past the first sentence or two, so—

Jake: He hates knowing even the most basic plot.

Quentin: He’s been that way ever since he saw his first movie.

Jason: I’m sorry I didn’t know what it was about when I picked it. But it was a good experience for me. I found it very cathartic.

Quentin: I’m not saying it was a bad experience. I just could have used some warning, that’s all.

Jake: Do you mind if I fill everyone in on what’s going on here?

Quentin: No, please do. I’m sorry.

Jake: We’re not going to talk about the plot of Boy21, because to talk about the plot would be to ruin the ride. And we’re simply not going to do that. That doesn’t mean we can’t talk about the book in terms of theme. First, let me say, there is absolutely nothing gay about this book. Still, it’s a love story between two teenage boys.

Quentin: From the perspective of a straight guy, I would say that’s 100% accurate. It’s about the transformative power of friendship.

Jason: And not all love stories are romances.

Jake: The two boys, Finley and Russ, have lost three parents between them. Neither of them has a mother. And that’s what Quentin is going on about. This is a story about kids trying to cope in the world without their parents. And for those of you who don’t know Quentin and Jason’s story, their parents were killed in a car accident two years ago.

Quentin: This book unhinged me.

Jason: We were both finishing it last night in our rooms upstairs. We have rooms across the hall from each other. At a certain point we didn’t even bother trying to pretend we weren’t bawling our heads off.

Quentin: Quick understands set up and payoff, and when the payoff came, it shredded me emotionally.

Jake: The book is set in Bellmont, PA. I don’t even know if that’s a real place or not, but it’s a rough town. The characters are poor. The story is narrated by Finley. He comes from a mob controlled Irish neighborhood and is the only white player on the high school basketball team. This book is as much about basketball—

Quentin: I would challenge that. Quick very much sets basketball up to be a source of personal growth and achievement, learning how to be a team player and all that crap, but then he flips it and exposes the insanity of putting a game before the people we love. That was one of my favorite parts of the book.

Jason: There’s a lot of talk about basketball. I know absolutely nothing about the sport, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the story.

Jake: Finley lives with his dad and his grandfather, who has no legs. His mom’s absence is not explained at first. Finley doesn’t talk much. He has a girlfriend named Erin, who accepts his silence and loves him. They dream of getting out of Bellmont.

Quentin: Erin reminds me a lot of Dakota.

Jason: I can see that. They both know how to hang without talking all the time.

Jake: Then along comes Russ, whose parents were recently murdered. I don’t know how to describe Russ.

Quentin: I do. He’s what I would have been were it not for my brothers and Travis. He’s stepped out of reality in order to keep breathing. He calls himself Boy21 and talks about being from outer space. His whole psyche is splintered. Nothing makes sense, except the glow-in-the-dark stars he has plastered to his ceiling. When he turns off the lights and looks up, he imagines his mom and dad are among those stars. There’s no comfort for a boy who has lost his parents. Not at first, at least. Only escape.

Jason: The basketball coach, who I wanted to slap half the time, asks Finley to watch out for Russ at school, and the two become friends.

Jake: And that’s about all the plot you’re going to get from us.

Quentin: Except at 66%, the story takes a left turn that I wasn’t crazy about at first.

Jason: Me either. I was ready for things to start getting better at that point.

Quentin: I was worried the story couldn’t recover. But it did. That’s what readers need to know. There’s a big left turn late in the book, but Quick does right the ship by the end. And the ending is not Pollyanna at all. Hope does not come without sacrifice. And there’s a series of Harry Potter references that pay off nicely.

Jason: How did you react, Jake?

Jake: When I finished it last night, the first thing I did was hug my mom and tell her that I love her.

Jason: That’s a good reason to read it.

Jake
: We know lots of moms read Kathy’s reviews. If you are a mom with a teenage boy, here’s why you should give him this book—because when he’s finished, he will thank you for being the best mom a boy ever had. I guarantee it.

Quentin
: And if you’re an orphan like us, beware. Make sure you’re ready to take this on.

Jake: Any criticisms?

Jason: Yes. The writing is very polished, but the story is told in first person present, which is all the rage after The Hunger Games. I don’t really have a problem with the present tense. I got used to it, but I know some people find it annoying, so be warned if that’s you. Personally, and this is probably because Dad used to say this—

Quentin: “Unless you’re J.D. Salinger or Alice Walker, stay away from first person.”

Jason: Thank you. Holden Caulfield is the standard. Bring that, or stick to third person. Finley’s voice isn’t distinct enough to warrant the first person narrative. I think it would have been stronger in third person. But that’s just me.

Quentin: I agree. But then I was similarly brainwashed, and The Catcher in the Rye is the greatest novel about a teenage boy ever, so don’t invite comparisons.

Jake
: I think you’re both nit-picking. It worked fine for me. I didn’t even notice it. Now, when they make this into a movie and I hear the first-person voice over, I’m going to scream bloody murder.

Quentin: Jesus, you’re right. Did you see on his website that Mr. Quick makes $12,000 for a two hour public appearance with Q&A? Do you think we could get that kind of payday?

Jason: You’re delusional.

Quentin: Come on, little brother. There are three of us. So technically, they’re only paying $4000 each. We’re a bargain.

Jason: Stop being silly.

Jake: If you’re looking for something with a little more grit, we highly recommend Boy21. It’s not a walk in the park, but it’s deeply emotional and has something good to say about the human race. If you’re a mom with a teenage boy, and you’re trying to get him to read more, this would be a great place to start. And you’d probably enjoy reading it too and talking about it with him.

Quentin: And then, head over to our blog, where our day job is reviewing movies. We’re not even competition for Kathy.

Jason: We’re seeing that Oz thing this week, right?

Jake: Right. James Franco. Now there’s a career we can sink our teeth into.

Quentin: The gayest movie star I ever met was a straight dude named James Franco.

Buy Link: Amazon

Three Amigos’ BLOG

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Filed under Boy21, Guest Review, Little Brown Books for Young Adults, Matthew Quick