Friday, August 16, 2013

Book Review: "Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock" by Matthew Quick

"You ever feel like you're sending out a light but no one sees it?"

High school senior Leonard Peacock is at the end of his rope. Not only is it his 18th birthday and no one realizes it, but he's feeling more and more alone and unhappy every day. So he has decided today is the day he is going to kill himself using his grandfather's WWII P-38 he took from a Nazi officer, but he is also going to kill his former best friend, Asher Beal.

Then perhaps people will feel badly for the way they've treated him, especially his mother, who has essentially neglected him.

But before he commits his final acts, he's determined to give going-away presents to the four people who impact his life—his elderly next door neighbor, the Bogart-loving Walt; Baback, a fellow student and secret violin prodigy; Lauren, the home-schooled Christian girl on whom Leonard has an unrequited crush; and Herr Silverman, his favorite teacher, and one of the only people who treats Leonard with respect for his intelligence and sensitivity. As he reflects on his relationships with the four of them, he becomes even more determined to carry out his plan.

In one day, with one decision, your life can change. How do you know what path to take? Can you believe those who promise things will get better, even if so many people around you don't seem happy with their lives? These are the questions that Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock strives to answer. But like life itself, there are no perfect answers, no easy solutions.

This is a pretty depressing book, both in its portrayal of the loneliness and alienation Leonard feels, and the stark reality that far too many people in real life share his feelings, and take the actions he is contemplating. Leonard is an unusual person caught in some unfortunate situations, and you can see that even the little bit of hope that people offer seems too little too late for him.

I've enjoyed Matthew Quick's previous books (particularly Silver Linings Playbook), and he has done a great job in developing Leonard's character in particular. I felt as if the book left a few issues unresolved, so I may need to re-read some of it, but you absolutely sympathize with what Leonard is going through. This book is definitely a downer, though, so it's best you don't read this if you're feeling emotionally vulnerable yourself.

While the book is geared toward the YA market, this is definitely one adults can and should read. I do hope that at least one person contemplating suicide will read this book and feel slightly more hopeful about the future than Leonard did, and ultimately be moved not to go forward with such a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

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