Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick; Review

by Madeleine Rex

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Title: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

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Author: Matthew Quick

Published: August 13, 2013

Number of Pages: 273

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis:

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. [From Goodreads

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]

Official Review Sent to Little Brown:

Matthew Quick’s third Young Adult novel, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, is tough to swallow, but it deals with difficult topics that need addressing. Quick heard Leonard’s voice asking to have its story told and has done so with magnificent skill, creating a book full of confusion and chaos and neglect, but never hopelessness. If there’s any one moral to Leonard’s story, it’s that the world is a dark place, but good people can be beacons of light, and in the end, light penetrates the darkness.

Review:

I finished this book approximately three minutes ago.

It’s still moving through me, circulating in my veins, soaking into my mind, making it fuzzy and stuck half-way in reality, half-out.

I have other things that need doing right now, but I feel the need to review this book while it’s still coursing through me.

I’m not sure how I feel about Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock. It’s not my favorite of Matthew Quick’s books, it’s not the most enjoyable – in fact, it often made me uncomfortable – but the things is: That’s the point. This book isn’t a generally happy book. It deals with uncomfortable topics. Tough things. Abuse, neglect, depression. These are things we don’t like to spend too much time thinking about, but Leonard Peacock reminded me of what I already knew was true but had forgotten: there are people who don’t get to choose whether or not they have to think about these things, and it’s crucial that we don’t forget those people. That we don’t turn a blind eye to what makes us uncomfortable simply because it’s hard.

Leonard’s mother, Linda, was the beautiful yet tragic personification of the phrase “turning a blind eye.” Her inability to focus on Leonard, her eagerness to see what she wanted to see, or what was easiest to process, wasn’t just absurd. It was sad. I’m still saddened by the idea that she will never appreciate her boy for what he has withstood. As Leonard says at one point, she’s missing out.

So, like I said, this book is hard. There’s a profuse amount of f-words and gruesome images, but, however much I disliked them, I came to realize that they are a part of who Leonard Peacock is, for now, and that because I came to love him, I could deal with them.

I have no doubt that some people will be turned off quite quickly by Leonard’s depression and “angst,” but there’s a reason for his angst. It’s not like his prom date stood him up, or he didn’t get a car for his eighteenth birthday. Leonard is lost, and Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is the story of his realizing that being lost is not the end of the world, that finding his place in the world may take time but that it – his place – is out there somewhere, and he’s the only one who can fill it.

That hope, that optimism, is the light in a dark book. Matthew Quick, who I’ve respected and admired since his first YA book, Sorta Like a Rockstar (here’s the review

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and an interview
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he graciously participated in later), has written yet another magnificent, one-of-a-kind book. I think that’s what I love most about his books. There is nothing quite like them. They aren’t even particularly like each other. And that’s how you know that his characters are telling their stories, as opposed to him spinning tales of his own. Matthew has managed, yet again, to hear the voice of a character with a story that needed telling and to take it upon himself to tell it.

So, whether or not the book made me uncomfortable at times, whether or not I ever read it again (I’m not sure I could handle it), I appreciate it for its honesty, its bluntness, and its message. As Gandalf would say, “Not all those who wander are lost,” and I think that’s what Leonard is trying to figure out.

Ultimately, I came to love Leonard. At first, I pitied him. Now, I still feel sorry for him because of what he’s been forced to deal with, but I admire him. As his few, true friends know, he has a light in him that shines into the dark world. He has the potential, and, even more importantly, the desire (whether he admits it to himself or not) to make people happy, and what’s pitiful about that? Nothing.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is a chaotic book. It throws your emotions right and left and swings them back and forth, but it teaches without being preachy. It’s full of dark things, but lovely things are sprinkled in between, like Humphrey Bogart films and Hamlet and banana chocolate-chip pancakes. It’s bittersweet, but so is life, and I think that’s the point.

So, thank you Little Brown, for the galley, and thank you Matthew Quick, for listening to the voices in your head that need to have their stories told, and for telling them.

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