Books & More from the Teen Scene

Book reviews and other reflections from one of Oregon's young adult librarians

“Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock” by Matthew Quick October 31, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 11:27 am
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Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock cover

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The Facts

273 pages; published August 2013

The Basics

Leonard Peacock gets up on his 18th birthday. He fills his backpack. He is ready to go. He will visit the four people who mean anything to him. He will give each of them a gift. Then, he will pull out the gun at the bottom of the pack and kill his former best friend. Then, he will kill himself. And, he thinks, this is a fitting celebration – going out 18 years after the day he came into this world.


Leonard Peacock is having a birthday. But this is no ordinary celebration. Leonard has carefully wrapped four gifts – one for each of the people who are important to him. After he sees these four people and gives these four gifts, he will do the thing he most deeply want to do: he will shoot and kill Asher Beal. Then Leonard will shoot and kill himself.

Leonard wonders if this will make him famous for a while. He wonders how people will remember his final visits and conversations. He wonders if people will be frankly relieved to learn he is dead.

He thinks about his 18 years of life and the events that have led him to this. His story, riddled with elaborate footnotes and flashes of memory, reveal this: Leonard Peacock is smart. He is weird. He is depressed. And he is determined to die.

Random Thoughts

  • This is the same Matthew Quick that wrote Silver Linings Playbook. What an amazing storyteller.
  • I found myself deeply anxious as I consider all the children I see each day and what I don’t know about them.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Fans of Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why
  • Young people ready to think in complex ways about serious topics
  • Adults who work with teens
  • People prepared to spend the last 50 pages of a book crying quietly but steadily

“Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things” by Kathryn Burak December 29, 2012

Filed under: Chick Lit,Fiction,Mystery,Poetry,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:38 am
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Emily's Dress cover

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The Facts

232 pages; published October 2012

The Basics

Claire’s father hopes that distance from Rhode Island and a new start in Amherst, Massachusetts will help Claire heal from two terrible losses – her mother and her best friend.


Claire has just moved to Amherst, Massachusetts and frankly, she’s going a little nuts. To say the last year was difficult is saying far too little. The loss of her mother to suicide has been compounded by the unsolved disappearance of her best friend – in which she was a suspect.

Now, she’s a year behind in school. Amherst is supposed to give her the chance to start in a new place, get her bearings, and figure out how to go on. Likable, smart and funny even in the depths of her grief, Claire ┬ádevelops some connections – with a new friend at school, with a student teacher from her English class, and with long-dead poet Emily Dickinson. When she starts visiting Emily Dickinson’s home-turned-museum at night, she doesn’t even really mean to break in and she certainly doesn’t mean to – in a moment of surprised panic – steal Emily’s famous, historic dress.

Random Thoughts

This book is not just about a girl dealing with grief. It is also a mystery and a romance and a teaser for Emily Dickinson’s haunting poetry and funny and hopeful. It’s complicated in a good way and so, so enjoyable.


“Butter” by Erin Jade Lange November 26, 2012

Filed under: Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 9:53 am
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Butter cover

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The Facts

294 pages; published September 2012

The Basics

Butter is overweight. Very overweight. In a fit of despair about his size and his inability to connect with the girl of his dreams, he decides to commit suicide by eating himself to death on New Year’s at midnight – live, online.


This is an incredibly uncomfortable book to read. Butter had always been obese, but has hit an all-time high. He is smart and charming and an incredibly talented saxophone player – but few people know that. Butter may not really realize it. He is isolated at school, coddled by his mother, ignored by his father. He’s chatting online with the most beautiful girl in school, but is slowly realizing that she wants to meet and he can’t let that happen. After one devastating incident, he decides the only way to get out of this is to end it all.

Butter creates a website – – and lays out his plan to appear live at midnight on New Years and eat himself to death, ending with a whole stick of butter. The response is so bizarre, yet so believable in the detached but voyeuristic environment of the web. Butter becomes a person of interest, invited at last into the popular circles he once watched across the cafeteria. He has friends and is invited to outings and parties as, online, schoolmates are egging him on and suggesting lists of possible items to be part of the last meal. He even gets to know the object of his crush in real life. And yet, even Butter knows the popularity that is bringing him new-found happiness all hinges on a single point – they want him to go through with it.

The story is surreal and monstrously painful, but – like the morbidly interested classmates – you can’t look away.

Random Thought

The writing in this book is excellent and the story is brilliantly told. It is not fun, but it is worth it.


“Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher May 25, 2012

Filed under: Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 6:52 am
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Thirteen Reasons Why

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The Facts

288 pages; published October 2007

The Basics

Before Hannah Baker took a fatal dose of pills, she created a set of tapes that tells the story of 13 people and 13 incidents that are her central reasons for taking her life. Tonight, the tapes arrive at the home of Clay Jensen, who had a crush on Hannah and who connected with her at a party only days before her death.


“Hello, boys and girls. Hannah Baker here. Live and in stereo. No return engagements. No encore. And this time, absolutely no requests. I hope you’re ready, because I’m about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you’re listening to these tapes, you’re one of the reasons why.”

Those are the words that introduce Clay Jensen to the most difficult and emotional night of his life. He had a big crush on Hannah. He already surviving the confusing sadness of her suicide. Now – when it’s too late – he is about to learn what was really going on with Hannah. He’ll find out the truth about moments in her life he already knew about, and learn about secrets he never could have imagined, all the while waiting miserably to learn where he fits in to her 13 reasons why.

As the sad, complicated story unfolds, Clay sees how people’s actions and disregard work together toward a terrible final moment.

“When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life.”

Random Thoughts

I avoided reading this book for a long time because I thought it would be sad. I was right. It is brilliantly written and devastatingly sad.


  • South Carolina Book Award for Young Adult Book Award (2010)
  • Florida Teens Read (2008)
  • Georgia Peach Honor Book Award (2009)
  • Kirkus Reviews Editor’s Choice
  • California Book Award
  • Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2013)