Author: Matthew Quick
Narrator: Noah Galvin
Published: August 13, 2013
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Length: 6 hours and 19 minutes
Source: SYNC free download
Rating: 4 stars
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“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”My Thoughts
―Matthew Quick, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
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)
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is not an easy read by any means. It’s a raw, heart crushing book that leaves you emotionally gutted long after you’ve finished. Having read the synopsis, I knew to some extent that this would be the case, but even so, I was not entirely prepared for what I would find within these pages. I had borrowed this book from the library at first, but for some reason or another, I found it difficult to truly immerse myself in the story when I was reading a physical copy. Listening to it was an entirely different story. I downloaded the free audiobook that was offered by SYNC, and suddenly, I couldn’t stop listening, and it really made the workday go by so much faster. For some reason, I was able to empathize more with Leonard when listening to the book rather than reading it, and I found it to be, overall, a gripping tale of a teen who has lost the will to live and is trying to find his way back to stability.
Leonard Peacock, our protagonist, has been struggling for years with depression and so many pent-up emotions that he’s nearly exploding from all of the confusion, frustration, sadness and anger. Leonard isn’t always a likeable character, and sometimes I could not stand his bitterness and cynical POV. But as the book progressed and we are given a deeper understanding of his character, I couldn’t help but sympathize with all he’s been through. Leonard may not be starving or lacking the bare necessities, but his life has still been filled with so many hardships. His father is gone and on the run from the Feds, and his mother is neglecting her motherly duties, as she leaves Leonard alone in New Jersey while she follows her dream of becoming a fashion designer in NYC. His mother has to be the worst parental figure a kid could have; she cares only for herself and her career. Even when Leonard’s mental condition is readily apparent, his mother is still blind to just how badly he needs help, too wrapped up in her own vanity and ambitions to take note.
And this is where Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock hits the hardest; this is the most tragic reality of all. It is obvious that Leonard is falling to pieces. The only way it could be more obvious is if he screamed it at the top of his lungs. He changes his appearance, he gives away possessions and large gifts, and all of these are suicidal signs. Yet his mother, his counselor and even a teacher is oblivious to these drastic changes, or they brush them off as nothing, allow themselves to believe that he is okay and that they are just imagining something where there is nothing. This is where I started to feel the true implications of this novel, the dark reality that suicidal victims will often cry out for help before they go through with it, only to be ignored.
In Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, Leonard is just looking for an excuse to live, for someone to stop him and tell him that his existence means something. He tells himself again and again that he wants to die, that he hopes no one will stop him, but this repetitive thinking makes it all the more painfully evident that he is just searching for a reason to live. It was tough witnessing his cries for help, and all the while, hoping along with him that someone would hear them and be there for him. And, luckily, there are four friends that Leonard has to thank for making his life more bearable, four friends he wishes to say goodbye to before he leaves this world. They may not be friends in the traditional sense, but they have given Leonard some hope in humanity.
Out of all Leonard’s friends, Herr Silverman was, by far, my favorite. While he is Leonard’s instructor, and not necessarily a friend, his class on the Holocaust offers Leonard many valuable lessons that he can apply to his own life. Herr Silverman understands what Leonard is going through, and he understands what it is to be different, to feel like you don’t fit in anywhere. He always seems to know just the right thing to say, and it is his quotes that really resonated deeply with me:
“You're different. And I'm different too. Different is good. But different is hard. Believe me, I know.”
“People should be nice to you, Leonard. You're a human being. You should expect people to be nice.”It is also Herr Silverman who inspires Leonard to look to the future, where things can only get better. He urges Leonard to write letters to himself from people he will meet in the future. We are given these letters throughout the book, and it is these small snippets of a fictional future that Leonard has dreamed up that coaxed tears out of my eyes. Through these letters, we are able to see how worthwhile life will be for Leonard if he only keeps fighting through all of the sorrow and the pain. It’s these moments that make all of the suffering worth it, and I’m glad that Quick included these letters to give us an understanding of all that Leonard would lose if he took his life.
As for the narration, I thought Noah Galvin was a very convincing Leonard Peacock. At times, he seemed sardonic, and at other times, he was more morose. It just depended on the the scene, and what was more fitting. His tone worked really well, and I enjoyed listening to him narrate.
My only issue with Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock was the ending was just too abrupt for my tastes. I wanted some more closure although I understand that life itself is unpredictable, and that we can never have all the answers, given that there are so many uncertainties. Yet I still felt like the ending was a little rough, and I was left hanging and wanting a little more.
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock was a painful, authentic read that explores some of the darker realities we may wish to avoid. I found it to be an eye-opening read, and I could relate to Leonard’s struggles, having suffered from depression myself. I would recommend it to anyone who loves issue books. I’d just have a box of tissues close at hand.