“You’re different. And I’m different too. Different is good. But different is hard. Believe me, I know.”
Among the stack of fairytale retellings, contemporary romance, and dystopian YA fiction, nothing fascinates me more than ever as the bittersweet coming-of-age novel. We’re talking about Catcher in the Rye where profanity is spoken with passion and angst is character. We’re talking about the alienated boy with issues, the misunderstood and ignored, the hopelessness of adulthood and the harsh reality that the world does not give a damn whether you slash your wrists or not. This sort of novel, perhaps, did not blow away our world or made it any better but it did something that you probably wanted to do for a long time– it cried, it wailed, it cursed the world and all of humanity– it’s like having a friend who could understand you.
“I feel like I’m broken—like I don’t fit together anymore. Like there’s no more room for me in the world or something. Like I’ve overstayed my welcome here on Earth, and everyone’s trying to give me hints about that constantly. Like I should just check out.”
–-Matthew Quick, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock follows the same markings of Catcher in the Rye. Pretty much any book with a surly, unpleasant and *gasp* introspective teenager is compared to Catcher in the Rye, but what makes Leonard Peacock different from our collection of sullen fictional teens? Why is this book so good and stunning to me?
On his 18th birthday, Leonard Peacock decides to cut his hair, give presents to the four most important people of his life, shoot the school bully with his grandfather’s P-38 Nazi pistol and finally, shoot himself. That sounds depressing enough but the novel manages to add sour humor through the eccentricities of Leonard Peacock from his Humphrey Bogart impersonation to wearing a suit and pretending to be an adult during mornings. His oddly timed and oddly placed conversations just add to his eccentric behavior and makes him, more or less, oddly likable. I could have easily hated his character– the apathetic, snarky and self-important young man– but so much about what he thinks and says is actually me who is an apathetic, snarky (though I don’t like describing myself like that) and self-important young woman. I find myself laughing and agreeing to most of his thoughts, proving that despite recently turning 20, I never grew-up from being 18, or maybe 16!
The book tackles issues of depression, anxiety, rape, bullying and suicide, which I think are common themes in this sort of novel but never unimportant. Although the the novel is disturbing from the very beginning, it gets even more darker as we gradually learn Leonard’s secrets. One of the many things I love about this novel is that it portrays an adult who sympathizes with similar struggles. The mentor-figure is quite a common trope in coming-of-age novels but that doesn’t make their novelty less exhausting and the way the book depicts this character doesn’t sound too preachy or cheesy. Personally, I had a few mentor-figures who influenced the life I am living right now and, though they never got rid of my bursts of depression and loneliness, they helped ease it.
In between Leonard’s narrative, we read letters from the future written by people he loves, or will love rather. It nicely foreshadows the book’s ending and gives us insight about Leonard’s true feelings and his future even. We also have footnotes, which are insightful and funny at the same time. The letters and the footnotes makes it all feel like you’re a part of the story as well and that you are interacting and conversing with Leonard himself. Because of this, the novel feels more personal than ever.
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock hit me like no other novel did. It nailed it. This novel runs through impulse and emotion, much like Stephen King’s Rage which I read a few months ago. What makes it so different is that it isn’t just an angst-driven novel. It is a novel driven by loneliness and Leonard has become a dear friend that I could turn to without feeling absolutely hopeless.
“I want to believe that happiness might at least be possible later on in life for people prone to sadness.”
–Matthew Quick, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
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 look at a day in the life of a disturbed teenage boy, acclaimed author Matthew Quick unflinchingly examines the impossible choices that must be made—and the light in us all that never goes out. (Goodreads)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matthew Quick is the New York Times bestselling author of THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, which was made into an Oscar-winning film; THE GOOD LUCK OF RIGHT NOW; LOVE MAY FAIL; and four young adult novels: SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR; BOY21; FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK; and EVERY EXQUISITE THING. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages, received a PEN/Hemingway Award Honorable Mention, was an LA Times Book Prize finalist, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, a #1 bestseller in Brazil, and selected by Nancy Pearl as one of Summer’s Best Books for NPR. THE REASON YOU’RE ALIVE will be published in 2017 by HarperCollins. All of his books have been optioned for film. Website | Twitter