Matthew Quick has presented us with Leonard Peacock, in a story that is emotionally gripping to the last ambiguous page. Leonard lives alone in his suburban New Jersey home: drug addled ex-rock and roller father and model mother selfishly pursuing her own life and dreams that do not include Leonard. Intelligent, Leonard is a philosophical thinker desperate to find hope and happiness in adulthood as his childhood hasn’t been full of laughs. His former best friend, Asher, is portrayed with a sociopathic bent: while we are never fully told the reason for their antipathy, the result is all too clearly apparent in Leonard’s anger, and vengeful fantasies.
What is special about today is that it is Leonard’s birthday, and not one person has made an attempt to acknowledge the day. But, his plans for making his 18th birthday special have been building for a while now. Told in short chapters much like journal entries, much of the story is told in first person point of view: we actually see and feel Leonard’s disenchantment with the state of the world, after the journey to find a positive reason to becoming an adult. We hope, as he takes us along his journey that he is able to find a reason to continue, and find some hope to soothe his troubled thoughts. That he is highly intelligent and thoughtful, and perhaps even a bit elitist in his beliefs about the mental capacity and functioning of others is clearly evident. In fact, despite his wish for a painful end for his best friend, and his apparent willingness to embrace his own death: this is not a kid who is mean or vengeful.
His self-proclaimed new best friend is his neighbor, Walt, an elderly and infirm man that shared his fondness for classic films, especially Bogart, with Leonard. Much of their conversation is peppered with, if not wholly consisting of quotes from films, although deeper conversation between the two nearly brings Leonard to tears before he flees.
His further attempts to say goodbye, and make those moments important, and to reassure others of their capabilities and goodness as human beings is touching and thoughtful: he carefully evaluates each person he encounters with an adult sensibility that far belies his years. The most touching goodbye is with his Holocaust teacher Herr Silverman, who makes a concerted effort to get Leonard to open up, to be hopeful for a future: in fact he even set him an assignment to write letters to himself from people in his future, as a reminder that things can and will be different and better. We are treated to these letters in the story, there is that hopefulness contrasted against the post-apocalyptic world in which they are set, all written in Leonard’s hand, there is a beauty in that assignment and the hopefulness that sets them apart from his other journal entries.
Totally engrossing and utterly gut wrenching, despite the darker overtones, there is no ghastly conclusion with his suicide, it is left to the reader to find a meaning in the complete work: and therein lies the beauty. Leonard’s entire day is snippets of thinking over the past weeks, months, and years as he searches for a reason to continue on. Far from being a conclusive ‘why they do it’ sort of story, this is one of the many different postulations on possible reasons, issues and places where individuals can and do make a difference in a troubled life. With ample literary, philosophical and classic movie references, readers are treated to new perspectives and viewpoints, and are invited to expand their own horizons and reevaluate their own opinions.
While this is set in the genre of teen reader, I also would encourage adults to pick this book up and read it: far from simply laying out a direct correlation from cause to event, this book takes many short chapters to wander and absorb positive and negative experiences, imagery and input and leave the ending undefined and nebulous, much like life.
I received an eBook copy from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Title: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
Author: Matthew Quinn
Format: Hardcover, eBook and AudioBook
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA / Teen 14 +, Literary Fiction
Purchase Now: Amazon § Barnes & Noble § Audible § Books A Million
About the Book:
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.
About the Author:
Matthew Quick (aka Q) is the New York Times bestselling author of several novels, including THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, which was made into an Oscar-winning film. His work has been translated into more than twenty-five languages and has received a PEN/Hemingway Award Honorable Mention, among other accolades. Q lives with his wife, novelist/pianist Alicia Bessette.