Friday, September 20, 2013

Forgive me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Leonard Peacock is a high-school senior whose mind is plagued by the harsh realities of his life—his father’s abandonment of his family, his mother’s similar behavior in being constantly out of town for business and romance, the physical and emotional pain inflicted upon him by his much-changed former best friend Asher Beal, his lack of hope for happiness in adulthood, and the simple fact that he is different from other teenagers. Inviting us into his mind on his eighteenth birthday, Leonard plans to “go out with a bang,” killing Asher Beal and himself with his grandfather’s P-38 Nazi handgun. However, he has some business to settle first, delivering presents to his elderly neighbor Walt, with whom he has watched Humphrey Bogart films and in whom he has found a caring male figure; his Iranian classmate Baback, who has brightened his days with the beautiful music of his violin; his first real love interest, a girl named Lauren, who is, contrary to Leonard’s atheistic views, a devout Christian; and his Holocaust teacher Herr Silverman, whom he genuinely appreciates as a teacher and a person. Leonard seems to hope that each of these individuals will realize what he is about to do and save him, just as he would like to save himself by writing letters from his imagined future family (as per Herr Silverman’s advice), but the choice is ultimately Leonard’s.

 Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock certainly will not rank among the greatest books I have read. The plotline is somewhat interesting, though many elements of it seem too familiar from stories of suicidal teenagers in the real world. In addition, certain stylistic choices that Quick makes add little to the story and, in some cases, are simply irritating. Two in particular become obvious to readers almost immediately—the use of short, blunt, predominantly one-sentence paragraphs and heavy reliance upon footnotes, which often feature either unnecessary quips or all of the background necessary to understand characters and their relationships, which may go unread because some audiences to not regard footnotes as important. Later in the novel, some moments of intense feeling are printed with odd spacing on the page that really does not make the content any more significant. What I will give the book, however, is that it is a quick read and that, as the story progresses, the reader begins to care for Leonard Peacock and to want to keep following his experiences on what could be his last day of life.

 This is a novel best suited to older teenagers because of its liberal use of profanity and its subject matter. I cannot say that Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock deserves my overwhelming recommendation, but it is a good choice for leisure reading, if one does not feel a need to take away from a book much meaning beyond itself. It truly is not a challenge for the mind.

~Justin, Teen Book Reviewer
11th Grade

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