Fangirl Friday is a weekly feature where I talk about kickass books and why they rock.
FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK by Matthew Quick
ARC received from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA Contemporary
Pub Date: August 13, 2013
Dannie Says: Holy Crap. (Actually I said it aloud eight different times while reading, because holy crap is this a fantastic, important book. )
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.
What I liked:
Quick has killer voice but the more of his stuff I read the more similar it sounds between books. At first I worried I was going to get sick of it, reading it so close in time to SILVER LINING's PLAYBOOK, which I just finished last week. But I can't imagine a voice more appropriate to the narration than this.
Quick's books tend to be heavy on narrative which for me always slows the pace, but it didn't this time.The writing is just so good. I wanted to read ALL the words! I loved his use of visual imagery. So, as I grapple for things to critique in this review, I'd say more dialogue and less narration, but that's more my personal preference than an actual critique of the work.
What I loved:
Writers, if you need an example of a good hook, this one is epic. Not only does it make you want to turn the page, it makes you want to know how the story will end--I felt a page-two commitment to reading it from start to finish. And because the writing is so beautiful, it wasn't the sort of thing where I wanted to skip to the end to find out what happened.
One of the things I love about Matthew Quick's books is his careful respect of people experiencing mental health issues while simultaneously portraying the darker realities of mental illness in an authentic way. That's an extremely difficult balance to strike, one I struggle with myself despite my clinical background.
I think he does an amazing job here of making you sympathize with a character that can be interpreted as an antihero, while at the same time not justifying or excusing his deplorable behaviors. He does an exquisite job laying out Leonard's thought processes in a way that is both intense and organic. It is such a delicate balance and for me he does it perfectly. He got a lot of props for doing this well in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, but I think he does it even better with LEONARD.The bravest part of that is his completely candid approach, which probably get this book banned from all kinds of places, but this is why kids will read it anyway.
What I wanted more of:
Uh...the whole thing. But that's not very constructive, is it?
***SPOILER ALERT IN NEXT PARAGRAPH***
As evidenced in the acknowledgements included with this ARC, Quick obviously did his research and consulted a lot of mental health professionals. The only possible error to pick at--and it may not even be an error. I've never practiced in Pennsylvania so I can't say--is that all educators have an ethical and legal obligation to report sexual abuse to law enforcement in addition to social services. So I'd expect some law enforcement involvement at the very least, particularly when the teacher can't reach Leonard by phone. I also think Herr Silverman's promise not to tell anyone is a mistake for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that lying to a suicidal kid can tip the scale for him. But, like I said, the laws vary by state, so this may not be an error at all. And, in fact, it's an authentic error because I know plenty of teachers and counselors who have made this unkeepable promise. It stuck out to me as a clinician because I think we make a mistake as adults when we agree to keep secrets for young people--whether it's from their other parent, their teachers, or whomever. Positively intended or not, they can be damaging.
ANYWAY...[/tangential soap box]
On a related note, it's probably important here to talk about content, as I know a lot of my readers are parents. Make no mistake, this is an extremely gritty, real, and difficult book to read. It is not a summer beach read, fluff, light-hearted or anything of the sort. (Translation: this is my kind of book, but it may not be for everyone.) My instinct is that LEONARD is best categorized as 'upper YA' because it is edgy, emotionally intense, with strong language and occasional graphic content. At the same time, I feel like putting it in that corner of YA would dissuade parents from letting younger teens read, when they might benefit from doing so. What I concluded is this: this book is appropriate for teens at the 9th grade reading level. It is invaluable if the parent reads it, too, and discusses it with them.
It could save lives if teachers read it.
Short story long, be extremely jealous you have to wait until next week to purchase this one. In the meantime, use the links below to preorder, like, and add to Goodreads. This book will challenge your thinking and make you think some more. I'd especially recommend it for educators, because I think Matthew Quick gives voice to a lot of legitimate feelings today's teens experience in the classroom.
And you want to know a secret? *whispers* I think I liked it better than The Fault in Our Stars. Which I've never said about any book. Ever.