Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick is one hell of a book. I read Quick’s latest young adult book on my iPhone in the span of two days. I legit could not put my phone down for a second, it was so good. In fact, at one juncture, when the book slashed my heart into pieces, I had to text Jamie to be all like WHY DIDN’T YOU WARN me, as I read Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock because her review basically convinced me to give the book a whirl BUT I totally wasn’t prepared for the heart slashing to come.
Matthew Quick’s Forgive Me Leonard Peacock is about this teenage boy named Leonard Peacock who is in a world of hurt. You see, he has this plan where he will kill this boy who has been antagonizing him named Asher Beal, and then kill himself with the gun that his grandfather used to kill a Nazi. I initially did not really feel incredibly compelled to read this book, I am not sure what repelled me, but I am so, so glad I changed my mind. Just based on the summary, I would imagine that you are curious about what exactly has driven Leonard to the point where he is willing to kill a classmate and himself. I will say that it runs much deeper than bullying. In fact, at the end of this review I will go into spoilers because I have a need to discuss what I just read. Anyways, before Leonard can kill himself and Asher he must deliver a few gifts. This is where the Thirteen Reasons Why comparisons come in — however, these gifts are in no way intended to make the recipients feel bad. In fact, as he was giving the gifts to each person, I felt a special affinity for his recipients.
This sort of came as a shock to me, but although Leonard Peacock is deeply troubled and about to do something incredibly terrible and has really awful hair, I actually found him to be a sympathetic character. I actually read this book and felt for him and hated myself for thinking – what did this Asher kid do to deserve it. Guys, I did not think I’d actually have like a TON of sympathy and feels for Leonard, but I did. I have to say he’s one of the most well written and unique male characters that I have come across in young adult contemporary in a very long time. Leonard has a crappy home life. He’s privileged economically, however, his parents could give two shits about him. His mom’s too busy designing clothes and sexing with this guy named Jean-Luc in NYC to notice anything wrong. His dad is a perpetual drunk. Leonard’s an incredibly lonely teenager. More than that, he’s one of those cerebral types so he’s constantly thinking about things and a lot of the book is basically monologuing in his head, if that makes sense. Anyways, Leonard does weird things like skip school, dress like an adult, and ride the train all day then he follows the most miserable adult because he’s curious if everyone hates their lives and jobs. He’s weird you guys, but I found him interesting and endearing for some odd reason.
I want to just touch real quick on the side characters. I think Matthew Quirk did a bang up job with his secondary characters – making them different and fascinating. There’s Leonard’s next door neighbor, Walt. Walt is incredibly rich and old and loves smoking cigarettes. He also loves Humphrey Bogart’s movies and guys it’s such a cool and special element within Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock. I hope you love Walt as much as I did. Then there’s a certain character who plays the violin in such a breathtaking manner. Then there’s Herr Silverman, Leonard’s Holocaust class teacher who truly goes above and beyond the call of duty. I was as struck by the secondary characters and their interactions with Leonard, as I was with Leonard himself.
If you’ve read The Silver Linings Playbook, you already know what Matthew Quick’s writing is like. You know that he writes deeply flawed, real people. Friends, I actually liked Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock so, so much more than The Silver Linings Playbook. I know that could be blasphemy. While I liked Pat Peoples, I loved Leonard Peacock – in that he was complex and difficult and a character that I had a hard time making up my mind about. Quick is not only good at characterization, but he nails the pacing with his latest book. It’s a fast read where you will feel the itch to return to it, even if you have set it down to do things like work or documentation. I know that I was reading with my heart in my throat because I was so scared of what would happen to Leonard. I also have to say this one is creatively written too — there’s letters from the future interspersed between some chapters and I think you all might like that touch. I know I loved it and wanted so badly for that to be Leonard’s future. Seriously, when this book comes out you need to read it.
Now, beyond this point there will be spoilers.
Guys, I am assuming if you are reading this part you have read the book. So, we all have the knowledge that Leonard wants to kill himself and Asher because Asher has victimized Leonard sexually. Friends it is incredibly hard for me to read about child perpetrators because if children are perping, usually that means they have been victimized themselves. That’s definitely what happens in Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock. I have to say that I thought Quick did a superb job capturing that hopelessness that can come with victimization, especially when no one believes your story. Asher has this sort of power over Leonard and threatens him if he tells and I could not help but get sad and then mad. I got mad because remember that part where Leonard said his mom walked in on it, and then just turned her back. You guys, when a parent sees their child being victimized, they should do something about it. Child sexual abuse is something that could really fuck you up for a long time — which duh, look at what happened to Leonard. I really, truly think that if his mother had just done something – if she had taken him in for counseling, if she had put an end to the abuse, then we totally would not have a book. But we do, and it just ripped me to pieces when I learned that bit of information. Did it rip you to pieces? All I know is that this definitely does happen in real life, and perhaps that is why I am so emotionally impacted by it — Leonard’s reaction to his victimization and lack of adult intervention is not far off the mark in reality at all.
Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.
Other reviews of Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick:
The Perpetual Page Turner – “an interesting, powerful novel!”
Alluring Reads – “Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock was exactly what I look for”
Xpresso Reads – “gritty as gritty gets”
Books by Matthew Quick:
The Silver Linings Playbook