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One of the things I enjoy about Young Adult literature is how much fantasy and science fiction there is in the category. The whole “it’s a world like ours, but plucky protagonist discovers there are dragons in human form” kind of thing. There’s a way of turning the big existential questions that plague young people (well, I hope we never totally grow out of existential questions, but for young people especially) into metaphors to look at them differently.
Matthew Quick’s Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock doesn’t do that. The only fantasy in this story is a series of letters Leonard Peacock has written to himself from the future, at the request of his Holocaust teacher.
This is the story of Leonard Peacock’s birthday which is also the day he brings a dead Nazi’s gun to school for a murder-suicide.
It’s kind of amazing. There are four characters he has farewell gifts for before he ends his life and the life of the young man who was once his best friend but has become something else, and we follow him through the day and his life with these people in his memory. We meet these four – his elderly neighbour he watches Humphrey Bogart movies with, the Iranian violinist who goes to his school, the homeschooled evangelist he has a crush on and his Holocaust teacher – and learn about the other people in his life and how it has come to this.
Quick has written Leonard as a smart kid who loves Hamlet and he tells the reader his story directly, with many asides in the footnotes. He’s also weird, and critical and feels very authentically teenagery. He snarks at the “It Gets Better” campaign, but really really wants some help with life. One of my favourite things about the book is that the people he’s giving his gifts to, they aren’t stupid. He cuts off all his hair and everyone is worried. They see the warning signs and can tell they’re warning signs but it’s hard to tell what to do. No one is stupid; they’re just people.
I loved the book and recommend it highly (probably not for middle-schoolers though). And it makes an interesting companion piece to We Need to Talk About Kevin.
I read Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock in one night because I couldn't put it down. The book follows Leonard Peacock, a troubled 17-year-old boy suffering from depression who plans to kill his ex-best friend, Asher, and then himself, on his birthday. An extremely intense novel, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is an unforgiving look at mental illness and isolation that delves deep into Leonard's pysche - much deeper and much more haunting than one might expect. Quick's writing and descriptions of Leonard's pain are gutwrenching and beautiful all at the same time. The twist revealed in the third act - what Asher did - is heartbreaking and touches upon a topic that isn't talked about nearly enough in today's society. This is ultimately a hopeful read, but you have to bear the storm that comes first. I can honestly say that this book changed - and possibly saved - my life.
- @reallylikesmusicals of the Teen Review Board at the Hamilton Public Library
Although the subject matter was bleak this was really well composed and included some laugh out loud moments. Very deftly handled ending.
Wow what a sad story this was! Told in the voice of a morose, yet incredibly intelligent teenage boy, we're given a raw look into the road to suicide, and how depression affects your thoughts.
Wow. I don't think this book has been read enough, or even heard of. Incredibly powerful and thoughtful, especially how Quick deals with murder-suicide. May be a bit tough emotionally for some readers.
This book makes me remember how awful it is to be a teenager. You are so sensitive and vulnerable and dependent on the will and opinions of others. This book ultimately is a story of hope. That you can be at the bottom but you must always remember everything passes and life can look very different in time. Hang in there Leonard.
I wish I could transport myself in to this story so that I could sit with Leonard Peacock and just be his friend. What a lonely, despondent, and unusual character! I connected with Leonard on a deeper level than I do with most characters from novels--mostly because I wanted him to have a meaningful relationship and for him to be okay. This is one of those books that will stay with you for a long time--where you will continue to mull over the plot and the little intricacies. I won't be forgetting about Leonard any time soon.
A book that not only has the ability to change someone's life, but quite possibly save it. The story is dark, bleak, and often heartbreaking, but it holds on to hope so tightly that readers simply can't let go. A phenomenal read.
Brilliant book. I really liked how the book ended, i felt it wrapped things up really well and was realistic. Would definitely recommend this book, especially for teens contemplating suicide. It was a deeply moving book and was on the edge of my set wondering how it would end.
I have next to nothing in common with Leonard Peacock. But thanks to Matthew Quick's outstandingly realistic narration, I felt able to connect with him and really empathize with his situation. The trigger for Leonard's plans of murder-suicide is one not often brought up in YA literature, but it is so important. I am glad that Quick decided to take it on, as he did so with great sensitivity and skill. A quick, fast-paced read.
Powerful story! Everyone who deals with teenagers should read this book, including teenagers. Leonard is a loner who has reached the end of his rope and has decided to kill another teenager and then kill himself. It's all going to happen on his 18th birthday. The story is painful to read at times because you can tell he just wants somebody to do something. Highly recommended!
Today is Leonard Peacock's 18th birthday. He has three presents to give to other people before he does the two things he really wants: to shoot his former best friend and then shoot himself. You know the reason why he wants to kill his ex best friend is going to be revealed eventually but when the reason eventually comes to light it is so much worse than simply the terrible things that people can do to each other. It's a dark but very real, to me anyway, story. Leonard keeps leaving hints, keeps wishing and hoping so hard for someone to say happy birthday or to stop disappointing him but nothing really happens for him the way he wants it to. It's a hard hitting but bleak book and very much worth the time.
It seems strange to say that a book narrated by a character taking us through his final day--his eighteenth birthday, which he plans to end with a murder-suicide--could be so captivating, entertaining, and even enjoyable, but Leonard is such an interesting, engaging, honest, insightful, and articulate narrator that he hooks readers from the first page. Oh, it's also sad, disturbing, painful, and hard to get through, but it's nonetheless hard to put down in a pleasantly compelling way. If only Leonard could learn to appreciate himself the way readers come to, then he might start to believe some of the things he's told himself that could make life worth continuing. He certainly makes himself easy to identify with, which makes his story all the more powerful. I highly recommend it.
(Though I wish Quick had chosen a different title, as I was not at all intrigued by it or the cover and delayed cracking it open because I couldn't get excited about it--until the first page, then I was hooked.)
Yowza, what a tricky subject. Matthew Quick's follow up to the charming The Silver Linings Playbook chronicles one day in the life of Leonard Peacock, a gifted and troubled high school student who plans to take out his ex best friend with an antique P-38 Nazi handgun on his eighteenth birthday. Quick returns to several of the elements that made Silver Linings an enormous success: a misunderstood but pure love interest, a sympathetic male mentor, handwritten letters, gifts and tokens, the quest for Truth and Beauty. Quick's signature lighthearted style makes for a jarring counterpoint to the dark subject of teen shootings, but the glue that held it together for me was Noah Galvin's awesome narration of the audiobook version. Galvin brings Leonard Peacock to life in a pitch perfect performance that captures Leonard's full range: from too-smart-for-his-own-good sarcastic quips, to voice-cracking terror and pain. This read was outside my usual wheelhouse, but it was totally brave and engaging and I'm looking forward to whatever Quick and Galvin each do next.
Truly a beautiful book. Quick strings together a masterpiece made of the thoughts hopes and fears we didn't know anyone else had. An amazing and memorable read.
Leonard's voice rings true - disturbed, hurting, hopeful - as he narrates his final goodbyes before he commits murder-suicide. Author Quick is able to create an authentic voice that is somehow awful and sympathetic at the same time.