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 look at a day in the life of a disturbed teenage boy, acclaimed author Matthew Quick unflinchingly examines the impossible choices that must be made—and the light in us all that never goes out.
Author: Matthew Quick
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 13, 2013
I'm a little scared to write this review because it can go in a lot of different ways, and it's hard to balance what I think needs to be said with what I want to be said and what kind of impression I want to leave of this book.
Let's make the last part exceptionally clear: This is a phenomenal book and you should read it.
The strength in Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is that it's a book that touches on some basic, shared human experiences. I connected so strongly with Leonard in some ways, and that's where the impact of the story came in. It reached my humanity; awakened my compassion. Leonard Peacock is having a bad day, or moreso, he's had a rough few years and he doesn't see the light. He doesn't believe it's going to get better.
He wants to believe, but he can't. He's caught up in a sea of negativity and it's sucking the life out of him. The world is darker and he can't find any light, and so he's spiralling out of control. I think this is where I became most emotional: Leonard is looking for something better. He's desperately trying to find it, and he can't. All the adults he knows are miserable, and he lacks any friends in his peers. He feels like no one understands him and when he looks at other people, all he sees is misery.
I've wondered that before. Hell, I think I'll wonder that again. I hate when adults around me are constantly tired from work, constantly exhausted doing mundane things. When all they want to do is forget and self-medicate. I hate when people aren't being real, they're caught up in status and whatever. Sometimes, I'm caught up in that too and I'm scared because my goal is only to be happy, and it should be something very simple but sometimes it's not and sometimes it is. I think this disenchantment was the pulse of the story. Except Leonard has a hard time getting out of it. I think it's fair to say that world is not as terrible as Leonard believes it is, but he's trying to believe and no one is pulling him out of that.
I remember thinking, at some point throughout the story, about what Leonard would think of me, if we ever met. I hope I could be kinder to him. I wouldn't say he's weird, because I don't do that to people, although I know that I'm not exactly approachable. I'd like to think that I try to enjoy small things. I bop to the music, I smile at random things I see, and I try to have fun. I was trying to figure out what Leonard would think of me-- and what I would think of him. Would I help him out? Would I realize what kind of person he is? And I guess I felt a little self-conscious because I like Leonard. I think he's an interesting person that sees the world differently, and sometimes I connect with that. But then I realized that Leonard sees the humanity of the situation, and that's too much for him sometimes. Leonard is understanding, but is tired of being abused. I don't need to care about what Leonard would think of me. We're both human.
Basically, I think Leonard would understand. And this is fundamentally why Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is so great. I just wrote about Leonard like he's a real person because the story is so real. It's full of little and big moments and it doesn't really end conclusively except that there's this odd hope that the next day can be a little better, and maybe there is something greater to reach for. Maybe it is possible to find happiness.