Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is a perfect book if you are looking for an emotional punch in the gut. Leonard has decided is 18th birthday is the day he is going to die. He is going to kill his former best friend with his grandfather’s WWII relic Nazi gun, and then kill himself right after. But before that fateful moment, he has another mission to complete. He has four gifts for the four people in his life who care about him, and he is going to deliver the gifts and say goodbye to each of them.
The course of the book all takes place in this one day, and there is a lot of, will he, won’t he at the beginning that really carries the plot forward. I was very emotionally engaged in finding out what Leonard would decide to do, and what (if anything) would happen to make him change his mind and choose life. I was also in suspense about what terrible thing had happened to him to make him choose death and take the life of another. Everything is slowly revealed over the course of the novel, all of it in Leonard’s hard, cynical, angry voice. I really felt his character’s pain and it felt all too real to me as a reader.
Warning: Spoilers ahead. The side characters do at times feel a little like stock characters without any real depth. But this is Leonard’s story and we only get his perspective, so it could be this is how he sees them. Especially, Lauren; I feel his view of her is very warped. His neighbor Walt feels a little to idealized, and the sympathetic teacher as savior was a little overdone, but also all very raw and real as we saw things through Leonard’s eyes. One of the most unique things about this book are the letters from the future. I liked the author’s choice not to explain the origins of the letters at first. It left me wondering and I liked the time travel/speculative nature of it. When we find out that Leonard has written the letters himself as a writing exercise given to him by his teacher, I didn’t feel that ruined it for me. Instead, it showed me another side of Leonard, the hopeful side of him, the side that wants to live and wants to live through this and experience love again. I hope he does get a future like that, though at the end of the book we aren’t completely sure what lies in store for him. There is a glimmer of hope but it is only the faintest, faintest glimmer.
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is not a perfect novel. But it is a really, really great one. I think Matthew Quick handled a tough subject in a very believable and honest way. I will certainly be recommending this to older teens who like their books dark and gritty and real.