Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
Author: Matthew Quick
Published: August 13th, 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
GoodReads Summary: In addition to the P-38, there are four gifts, one for each of my friends. I want to say good-bye to them properly. I want to give them each something to remember me by. To let them know I really cared about them and I’m sorry I couldn’t be more than I was—that I couldn’t stick around—and that what’s going to happen today isn’t their fault.
Today is Leonard Peacock’s birthday. It is also the day he hides a gun in his backpack. Because today is the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather’s P-38 pistol.
But first he must say good-bye to the four people who matter most to him: his Humphrey Bogart-obsessed next-door neighbor, Walt; his classmate Baback, a violin virtuoso; Lauren, the Christian homeschooler he has a crush on; and Herr Silverman, who teaches the high school’s class on the Holocaust. Speaking to each in turn, Leonard slowly reveals his secrets as the hours tick by and the moment of truth approaches.
In this riveting book, acclaimed author Matthew Quick unflinchingly examines the impossible choices that must be made—and the light in us all that never goes out.
Review: I have read every one of Matthew Quick’s books. He is a teacher, and I feel as if he understands teenagers in ways that many people don’t. Quick’s characters feel like real people, and while I read this one, I kept forgetting that I was even reading a book. To be cliché, I was lost in the story.
Leonard Peacock is a complex character. Even with his evil intention to murder a fellow classmate, the reader comes to understand that he is deeply troubled and not at all evil on the inside. His plan is to give three gifts to three individuals who have positively impacted his life, then kill his classmate, and then kill himself. I read this book with an uncomfortable stomach. I couldn’t put it down because I needed to know how the plot unraveled. Kids will be hooked. It teaches incredible messages of bullying and loneliness. Leonard’s mother is such a terrible parent that I think it will make many teens appreciate their own parents. I had the urge to scream at her at several points in the book. I have read many books that are somewhat similar to the themes of this text, yet it felt very different. I would urge teachers to read it because it sheds light on issues that are often difficult (or maybe even taboo) to discuss.
Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: My initial thought was that this would make an incredible read-aloud. I think all types of kids would appreciate it. My only hesitance are there are several references to awkward scenes (like masturbation), and even the most liberal teachers might feel a bit uncomfortable reading these aloud. That said, I think this would make an excellent whole-class text or literature circle book. Teachers would also find value in close readings of portions of this text to jumpstart difficult (but important) conversations with students about bullying, depression, and suicide. The book has over sixty footnotes, and it would be interesting to discuss this text feature and/or the experiments that Quick takes with the text structure. The book ends a bit abruptly, and I think students would love to write and discuss extended endings to the text. I would love to see this book bridged with classic texts like The Awakening by Kate Chopin or Hamlet by William Shakespeare. There are a plethora of Shakespeare references that will make teachers drool!
Discussion Questions: What leads a person to make rash, violent decisions? Can s/he be stopped?; How does our past influence our psyche?; Is revenge sweet? Can it ever be justified?; How do our parents shape our mental behavior?; What happens after the conclusion of this text?
“I admire [Humphrey] Bogart because he does what’s right regardless of consequences—even when the consequences are stacked high against him—unlike just about everyone else in my life” (p. 23).
“How do you measure suffering?
I mean, the fact that I live in a democratic country doesn’t guarantee my life will be problem-free.
Far from it.
I understand that I am relatively privileged from a socio-economical viewpoint, but so was Hamlet—so are a lot of miserable people” (p. 94).
Read This If You Loved: Endgame by Nancy Garden, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Hamlet by William Shakespeare, The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick, Burn by Suzanne Phillips, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson, Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King, The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp, Inexcusable by Chris Lynch