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Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock Hardcover – August 13, 2013
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From School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up–Leonard Peacock has big plans for his 18th birthday. He plans to kill Asher Beal and then commit suicide. Leonard is a loner, an outcast, a misfit. Asher is a superpopular jock/bully. But they used to be friends, best friends. Something happened when they were 12, something bad. Leonard has had no one to confide in–his washed-up rock-musician dad is on the lam and his self-absorbed, oblivious mother forgets that she has a son. His anger, emotional pain, and brokenness build until he feels there is nothing left to do but end his life and the cause of his misery. As he gives gifts to the four people who mean something to him, he reveals some of his anguish. One recipient, his teacher Herr Silverman, picks up on his suicidal signals and offers the listening ear Leonard so desperately needs. As the heartbreaking climax unfolds, readers learn about the sexual and emotional trauma the teen has endured. Fortunately, there is no bloodshed, just the shedding of many overdue tears. Leonard knows he needs help and readers will hope he gets it. This is a difficult, yet powerful, book. Quick's use of flashbacks, internal dialogue, and interpersonal communication is brilliant, and the suspense about what happened between Leonard and Asher builds tangibly. The masterful writing takes readers inside Leonard's tormented mind, enabling a compassionate response to him and to others dealing with trauma. May there be more Herr Silvermans willing to take personal risks to save the Leonard Peacocks.–Lisa Crandall, formerly at the Capital Area District Library, Holt, MIα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
It’s Leonard’s eighteenth birthday and, big surprise, nobody remembered. This birthday, however, is going to count—because Leonard plans to shoot cruel bully (and former best friend) Asher Beal after school. First, though, there is the small matter of gift giving, in which Leonard delivers four presents to the four people who made his “worthless” life a little better: a noir film–loving neighbor, a violin prodigy classmate, a superhot teen evangelist, and his favorite teacher. The single-day time frame provides a good deal of claustrophobic tension, as readers will hope against hope that one of these four people will be able to deflect Leonard from his mission. But this is far from a thriller; Quick is most interested in Leonard’s psychology, which is simultaneously clear and splintered, and his voice, which is filled with brash humor, self-loathing, and bucket loads of refreshingly messy contradictions, many communicated through Leonard’s footnotes to his own story. It may sound bleak, but it is, in fact, quite brave, and Leonard’s interspersed fictional notes to himself from 2032 add a unique flavor of hope. Grades 8-11. --Daniel Kraus
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As with many YA novels, the adults in *Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock* are ineffectual when they’re not being downright mean and dismissive (Leonard’s mother is probably one of the most detestable adults ever to appear in a YA novel). Herr Silverman, Leonard’s Holocaust studies teacher, is the one exception. Like Leonard, Herr Silverman harbors a secret that makes him feel different from most of his peers. And he is the one adult in the novel who makes a genuine effort to connect with Leonard and understand him.
This is by no means an easy novel to read, but I suspect most will want to plow through it (as I did) because Quick’s writing resonates so honestly, and for all his quirks and hard-earned adolescent angst, Leonard is a likeable character. The book’s title remains a mystery (intentionally, I believe). Is it a plea for forgiveness signed by Leonard, as in a note or a letter? Or is it a plea for forgiveness that is being addressed to Leonard? The story provides justification for either interpretation, and the title’s opacity is but one of a number of ambiguities central to the novel.
High school senior Leonard Peacock is at the end of his rope. Not only is it his 18th birthday and no one realizes it, but he's feeling more and more alone and unhappy every day. So he has decided today is the day he is going to kill himself using his grandfather's WWII P-38 he took from a Nazi officer, but he is also going to kill his former best friend, Asher Beal.
Then perhaps people will feel badly for the way they've treated him, especially his mother, who has essentially neglected him.
But before he commits his final acts, he's determined to give going-away presents to the four people who impact his life--his elderly next door neighbor, the Bogart-loving Walt; Baback, a fellow student and secret violin prodigy; Lauren, the home-schooled Christian girl on whom Leonard has an unrequited crush; and Herr Silverman, his favorite teacher, and one of the only people who treats Leonard with respect for his intelligence and sensitivity. As he reflects on his relationships with the four of them, he becomes even more determined to carry out his plan.
In one day, with one decision, your life can change. How do you know what path to take? Can you believe those who promise things will get better, even if so many people around you don't seem happy with their lives? These are the questions that Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock strives to answer. But like life itself, there are no perfect answers, no easy solutions.
This is a pretty depressing book, both in its portrayal of the loneliness and alienation Leonard feels, and the stark reality that far too many people in real life share his feelings, and take the actions he is contemplating. Leonard is an unusual person caught in some unfortunate situations, and you can see that even the little bit of hope that people offer seems too little too late for him.
I've enjoyed Matthew Quick's previous books (particularly Silver Linings Playbook), and he has done a great job in developing Leonard's character in particular. I felt as if the book left a few issues unresolved, so I may need to re-read some of it, but you absolutely sympathize with what Leonard is going through. This book is definitely a downer, though, so it's best you don't read this if you're feeling emotionally vulnerable yourself.
While the book is geared toward the YA market, this is definitely one adults can and should read. I do hope that at least one person contemplating suicide will read this book and feel slightly more hopeful about the future than Leonard did, and ultimately be moved not to go forward with such a permanent solution to a temporary problem.