Author: Matthew Quick (Twitter)
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR
Publish Date: August 13, 2013
Genre: YA, Contemporary
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.
Leonard has given up. Today is the day, without a doubt, that he will end kill Asher Beal, then turn the gun on himself. It's the way it has to be. It's the only way out now. From his less-than-ideal family life, to the relationships with friends that never really got off the ground, or simply crashed and burned, there is a reason that Leonard has come to the school today with a loaded gun in his backpack. But before he can finally end it all, there are just four people to whom Leonard has to apologize. And, once he does, he's free to finally and ultimately be free...if he truly wants it.
I'm sure most of you can agree that this book has flown far beneath the radar on the YA market and, in some ways, I do understand why. Grappling with base human emotions, the darker side of the human mind, depression and suicidal themes, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock challenges the boundaries of young adult fiction. With heartfelt emotion, raw tension and a painful, palpable sadness, Matthew Quick paints a picture of a boy so desperate to get out, he sees no other option than a tragic murder suicide. And, with even greater precision and feeling, we are offered not only an insight into how Leonard's life became so hopeless, but also to the true hope for redemption.
When I read the synopsis of Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, I'll admit that I had pause when considering picking it up. As readers of this blog, you know that I have a deep appreciation for darker books that tackle reality in a true manner. However, I was worried that a book this dark might be even too much for me to bear. However, I have to say that I was very wrong in that regard. Let me be clear though; this book is extremely sad. It's sad in the sense that it is so very heartbreaking to watch a teenage boy so lost in the throes of despair that he cannot find a way out. It's sad that we can't reach through the pages and hold this boy that is so real, tangible, sensitive and genuine. It's sad that we cannot convince him that it does get better. Leonard truly was a remarkable character. There's a distinct intelligence about him that contrasts perfectly with this shadow of depression surrounding him. He's lonely, and that feeling is aching and hollow from page one, and we're enveloped into the world in which Leonard has lost himself. Told in first person, I found it was easy to access Leonard's thoughts on life, as a whole. I'll admit it was a bit painful at times, and as we see in his footnotes describing the extraneous details, we see just how thoughtful he is. He examines everything. He sees and feels it all, and that pain and sense of loss is almost suffocating at times which, for a story such of this, is a huge talent. The brutal beauty of Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock lies within the ability to put us in Leonard's shoes though, and by giving us a true-to-life, searing tale of a teen who has no sense of self-worth left. I do wish the ending had been a bit longer to know with complete certainty Leonard's fate. There's something to be said though for leaving us with two divergent paths, a touch of hope and, after all, a resigned sense of closure.
Overall, I was really, really impressed with Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock. It's about as dark as you can get in this genre without crossing the line because of the honest portrayal, but it is rich, layered and incredibly important. I give it a 4.5 out of 5, and I recommend it to all fans of YA and upper YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction and issue books. Please be aware of the dark subject matter and, at times, coarse language.
I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.