Little Brown Books for Young Readers
August 13th, 2013
For Review from Publisher
Synopsis via Goodreads
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.
When I first read the synopsis of this book, I was immediately curious. Between the Holocaust incorporation and the mystery behind why Leonard is on a suicide/murder mission, I was sold. Then I realized it was by the same guy who wrote The Silver Linings Playbook, which I've seen and loved but still need to read. So despite the lackluster cover1, I was excited to dive right into this one.
Leonard Peacock, you'll never meet another character like this kid. He's odd, an original thinker, highly intelligent, as well as possessing of a great dry humor. He is also extremely depressed and a little mentally unhinged. For all of this, I loved him and kept hoping things would turn out alright for him in the end. Through his highly creative letters from his future self to his crazy journeys following people at the train station, you could tell that Leonard was desperately trying to find and cling on to some semblance of hope. Every now and then, he would do or say something that just made me face-palm, especially in regards to Lauren. That said, I found him to be flawed in the dynamic way that all of the best characters are flawed. Then there was Herr Silverman. How I wish I could have had a Holocaust class at some point as it is a subject I've always felt deeply connected to. And how I wish I could have had a teacher like Herr Silverman at some point2. He was a brilliant and compassionate man with an heir3 of mystery about him. There was something familiar about Leonard's neighbor, Walt4, and I kept thinking how cool it would be to live next to him. Just go over and watch Bogart films, talk in code, etc.
This is where I take a brief moment to rant about something that just flat out bugged me. The female characters. They consisted of: the Jesus freak "romantic interest"; the oblivious/neglectful single moms; teachers and students5 who abuse the power of their sexuality; etc. I'm not saying the author is sexist, or Leonard6 for that matter, but I definitely got a slightly sexist vibe from the way all of the female characters seemed to be constructed in this novel7.
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is the stuff banned books are made of. And I mean this in the best way possible. The subject matter is dark, hard-hitting material addressing matters such as suicide, mental instability, the Holocaust, and other things that would spoil the book for you. There is swearing, including the infamous f-bomb, but it wasn't overdone or untasteful, imho. This book could be extremely difficult for me to read at times but for slightly different reasons than most of its readers8. The motivation behind Leonard's suicide/murder mission was slowly revealed in flashbacks throughout the story. I had my suspicions all along and they turned out to be correct, but this in no way hindered the story for me. The dry wit and humor helped add a much needed balance, keeping this story from being too heavy and weighted down. I absolutely loved the scenes from Leonard's Holocaust class and found them to be a welcome, appreciated addition to the plot. For the most part, this isn't the type of book you like or enjoy. It is the type of book you are either glad to have read or wish you hadn't. I, for one, am clearly the former.
Is there still such a thing as modernistic writing these days? Cause if so, I would definitely put Quick's writing in that category. The prose was raw and honest, making me feel like I was directly connected to Leonard's thoughts. The use of footnotes, periodic tid bits of verse, and pages containing only one word all served to increase the tangibility of the mood of the scenes as well as to give the reader a better idea of the mental instability of Leonard. I'll admit, the footnotes could be a little disruptive, but overall I thought they were a unique feature that the story really benefitted from.
My least favorite part had to be the ending. We kind of get an idea of where things are headed, but for me, I just didn't feel like I got enough closure. I kept "turning the pages" on my kindle looking for the rest only to realize that was it9.
Characters: One of a kind protagonist. A couple great minor characters. Issues with female characters.
Writing: Intuitive and unique!
Plot: Hard-hitting and compelling.
Ending: Not enough closure for me. Too abrupt.
Enjoyment/Likability: Not the kind of book you "enjoy" reading, but I'm really glad to have read it.
Overall: You'll never read anything else like it. The keen, deft manner in which Quick handles the subject matter and a remarkable protagonist make this a must-read. However, if you are looking for something light and fluffy, save this book for a time when you are ready for something that will cause gut-wrenching and not cavities.
Cover: Wasn't a fan at first but kind of like it now. Very gender neutral.
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1. Though I think I like it better now.
2. I still got a couple years left of college to find one.
3. No pun intended.
4. My dad died of lung cancer but insisted on "burning 'em while I got em". Walt smokes despite having really bad lungs.
5. The valedictorian was the prime example given.
6. Though I feel like maybe he is, and his mother wouldn't have helped that matter.
7. We just finished Light in August by William Faulkner in my summer Reading in the South class. One of the main things we discussed was whether or not Faulkner was a misogynist. Perhaps this is why I picked up on the way the female characters were drawn in this book, and perhaps I was reading too much into things. Or perhaps not. Either way, it is something that would have already been strongly in my mind while reading this.
8. Let's just say that certain elements/scenes hit really close to home for me and call it a day.
9. It probably didn't help that the story actually ends at about 88% of the way through.