My latest read has been on my to-read list for quite a while, and I finally picked it up this weekend. I finished reading it yesterday after work, and I’m still sorting out my feelings on it. My initial reaction, though, is that I love it, and I wish it had been around when I was in high school.
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is not what I would call an easy read, though the pages seem to fly by. It deals with some uncomfortable–even horrifying–situations, many of which adults would like to imagine teens don’t think about or deal with. This book treats those situations in a realistic way and gives a look into the mind of a teenage boy who is essentially at the end of his rope.
This book also does something that all excellent books do. It makes the reader think. (Some people seem to be uncomfortable with this as well. Just take a look at the current political climate in the U.S.) My hope is that readers–both adult and young adult–will look at this book and examine their own attitudes toward those who may be considered outcasts, weirdos, loners, etc. One never knows what someone else is going through, what drove them to this point, or how they often wish for someone to acknowledge their pain.
Today is Leonard Peacock’s birthday. It’s also the day he’s going to die. After he’s said his goodbyes today–to the only people who really matter to him–he’ll kill his former friend, Asher Beal, turn his grandfather’s gun on himself, and “shuffle off this mortal coil.”
As Leonard goes about his day, readers gradually begin to understand what is driving Leonard’s actions. They see how his parents have all but abandoned him. They see how he’s treated at school. They see how Leonard doesn’t think or act like most other kids. Most importantly, they see just what happened between Leonard and Asher Beal. Leonard has very good reason to hate Asher, but does that reason warrant Asher’s death…or Leonard’s?
The moment of reckoning grows closer, and Leonard must decide if he’s going to follow through with his plans. Will he actually use his grandfather’s gun to kill Asher and himself? Is there anyone who will notice that Leonard is a truly desperate young man? Will he reach out to someone and seek the help he needs? Is there any hope left that things will ever get better? I’m afraid you’ll have to discover those answers yourself…
I think that anyone who’s ever felt misunderstood, isolated, or excluded will, in some way, identify with Leonard Peacock. (This may not be a welcome realization for a lot of adults. I submit that those adults have either forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager, or they bear some responsibility in making others feel like dirt.) Readers may not have gone through exactly what Leonard did–though some most certainly have–but they may recognize and sympathize with Leonard’s feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and apathy. By encountering these feelings through fiction, maybe those readers can begin to work through some of the issues troubling them and begin to seek help. On the other end of the equation, perhaps this book will help others realize that they never really know how their actions–or inactions–influence those around them.
I’m going to stop now before I say too much (even though I may have already done that). If you’d like to learn more about Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock and other novels by Matthew Quick, check out the author’s website. You can also connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.