Title: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
Author: Matthew Quick
On the Shelves: Young Adult> Contemporary
How would you spend your birthday if you knew it would be your last?
Eighteen-year-old Leonard Peacock knows exactly what he’ll do. He’ll say goodbye.
Not to his mum – who he calls Linda because it annoys her – who’s moved out and left him to fend for himself. Nor to his former best friend, whose torments have driven him to consider committing the unthinkable. But to his four friends: a Humphrey-Bogart-obsessed neighbour, a teenage violin virtuoso, a pastor’s daughter and a teacher.
Most of the time, Leonard believes he’s weird and sad but these friends have made him think that maybe he’s not. He wants to thank them, and say goodbye. (Goodreads 2014)
A couple of months after I read and loved Quick’s Silver Linings Playbook, I spotted “Forgive Me Leonard Peacock” in hardback in the YA section of waterstones. Something about it intrigued me. Be it the title, or simply the odd choice of a picture of a hat on the bottom of the cover. Either way I wanted to read it for months, and now I finally have.
The story follows Leonard Peacock over a period of three days, which are as dramatic and emotional as a hurricane, in terms of seeing him jump from one conclusion to another. Don’t get me wrong, Leonard Peacock is not a likeable character. He is basically, for lack of a better description, a pretentious dick teenager. However, he is also going through a rough set of circumstances with a rough past, so you have to cut him some slack.
You join Leonard Peacock as he is at the height of a stressful time and has come to a drastic decision. He has decided to kill himself. But not before killing a classmate who, for one reason or another (which you do find out later in the book), has apparently made his life hell. You follow his mental attitude towards this plan over the course or two/three days. During this book, you spot the people he truly admires and cares about, and his perception of those who should or should not care about him.
The way I saw it, the title can be read in two ways. At first I read it as “Forgive me, Leonard Peacock”- because I thought that would be how he signed his suicide notes to his friends, which made sense to me. But as I continued through the book, I realise it is correct to be read just as “Forgive me Leonard Peacock”. The story isn’t about other people forgiving him, but rather himself forgiving other people for not being the same as him, or in the same mental place as him, and then actually forgiving himself, for blaming himself for so long. Also I believe it could be the reader asking Peacock to forgive them, for judging him throughout the book before understanding exactly how he came to this troubling place, which I believe, is exactly what Quick intended.
One thing I admire about Matthew Quick, alongside his lovely writing style anyway, is his bravery. In both FMLP and SLP, is that he is tackling some dangerous and prevalent issues in society, mainly the stigmas around mental health and our perceptions towards it. Oh you’re depressed? Are you officially diagnosed, or just attention seeking? You say you’re suicidal? Oh get over it, other people have it worse. Are you taking tablets? Tablets make it more managable, but you know, drugs are bad so don’t rely on them too much…. there is a minefield of stigmas surrounding these issues, and with an increasing rate of teenage suicides (so the ~*~media~*~ says, anyway), it definitely needs to be taken more seriously and not just brushed off as a “Teenage phase”. I also enjoyed Quick’s use of footnotes, a style of writing which I am only used to through reading Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld” series, you don’t see this style executed very often, especially not in young adult books, and it made for a nice change. I found it helped the book to stand out from the crowd a bit too.
Despite disliking Leonard’s character and his way of dealing with his issues, I enjoyed this book so much that it didn’t feel like a chore to pick it up and I finished it in two sittings. I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy books which tackle some darker issues.