Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
Leonard Peacock is a distraught teenager whose birthday plans involve him shooting his former best friend, and then himself, and ending all the pain in his life.
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock follows Leonard around on his birthday, as he says goodbye to his friends and himself, preparing for the end of it all. He exchanges Bogart quips with his elderly neighbor, feels bad about accosting his English teacher, gives away his college fund to a foreign musician and the closest thing to a friend he has at school, has his first kiss and a discussion on religion, and is almost discovered by his Holocaust teacher, who is hiding a secret of his own.
The novel throttles along with a “will he do it?” tension throughout, and the reader is easily gripped by his story, but finds themselves wanting to shake Leonard out of it at the same time. Surely his pain isn’t that bad?
As a high school teacher, school shootings, suicide, and depression is something on my mind a lot. We have drills in case of intruders and just went through an hour long session hosted by the local police department, of what to do in case of a shooter. Shootings are more popular than ever, and it’s terrifying.
I’ve also read Nineteen Minutes, Mockingbird, and Columbine as ways to better understand the mentality behind school shootings and how to prevent and protect the students. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock just re-emphasized the importance of teachers in the lives of students, and how just saying something as simple as “Happy Birthday” can change someone’s life.
The novel showcases what it’s like to be a teenager who feels different, who doesn’t connect well with people, who has been abused, who feels alone. I’ve never gone through that kind of pain to want to end my life, or those of others, so getting inside Leonard’s head was a bit eye-opening.
The side stories and anecdotes about Leonard’s friends and how they impacted his life were interesting, but could drag the pace of the story down a bit, particularly the story with the religious girl.
I found Leonard to be an interesting, bright character, and the kind of student teachers want to have: one that thinks outside the box, that notices irony and thinks analytically.
The reader for the audiobook did a wonderful job capturing the emotions in Leonard, and read the story in a pace that was fitting to the novel. I’ve heard the printed writing style is unique, which I missed out on, but listening to the story helped me better get in the head of the character.
I struggled not to cry and was profoundly affected by this story, and it’s not one that will leave me anytime soon.