Sunday, 19 January 2014

'Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock' by Matthew Quick: A Book Review

This is the season of book reviews, isn't it?


Hey, there! Today I'm going to be reviewing 'Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock' by Matthew Quick (who also wrote 'The Silver Linings Playbook').


The concept of the story really intrigued me, because I've never read or seen anything like this before. Of course I had to finish reading it in less than twenty four hours. And I wasn't bored for even a minute.
Here's the plot summary, courtesy of www.goodreads.com:

" '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."


If that story doesn't pull you right in, then you are (as Leonard would say) an  über-moron.

 I wasn't expecting to empathise with Leonard because, let's face it, who can relate to an aspiring murderer? But I did; I know people just like him. Heck, I was once a lot like him! 

School isn't Leonard's cup of tea. Don't get me wrong - he is intelligent, of course, but not in the way you'd think. He doesn't have the best grades and he doesn't care. He doesn't believe in the system of education. He wants to think; he wants to be happy. He doesn't want to give the 'correct' answers to get into an Ivy League university. He wants to give a real answer. The only problem is that nobody accepts those answers. 

But my favourite character is definitely Herr Silverman, Leonard's Holocaust teacher. In some ways, he reminds me of Atticus Finch from 'To Kill a Mockingbird'. Mature, wise and open-minded, Herr Silverman does his best to make every student feel loved, to make every single person in his class think beyond those walls, but in vain. Yet he keeps on trying. 

Leonard doesn't understand why people work so hard in school, get into good colleges and then spend the rest of their lives working at a job they hate. Sometimes he skips school, wears a suit, and pretends to be one of these adults in the subway. He follows the saddest person to their workplace, just so he can be assured that even the unhappiest adult can find ways to brighten their day. He expects them to go to an amusement park, take a vacation, maybe enjoy the beauty of nature, but all they do is go to their workplace grumpily. 
But if he ever followed Herr Silverman, he would find a happy man who isn't afraid to live life by his own terms. Everyone should aspire to be like Herr Silverman. 

The dialogues were amazing. Most of them were just Leonard's thoughts, but thankfully he doesn't think like any typical teenager. Here are some of my favourites, the ones I can reread again and again and still have a lot to think about:

“The whole time I pretend I have mental telepathy. And with my mind only, I’ll say — or think? — to the target, 'Don’t do it. Don’t go to that job you hate. Do something you love today. Do anything! Because you start a revolution one decision at a time, with each breath you take. Show me it’s possible to be an adult and also be happy. Please. This is a free country. You don’t have to keep doing this if you don’t want to. You can do anything you want. Be anyone you want. That’s what they tell us at school, but if you keep getting on that train and going to the place you hate I’m going to start thinking the people at school are liars like the Nazis who told the Jews they were just being relocated to work factories. Don’t do that to us. Tell us the truth. If adulthood is working some death-camp job you hate for the rest of your life — if it doesn’t get any better, I need to know right now. Just tell me. Spare me from some awful fate. Please.” 

"Did you ever think about all of the nights you lived through and can't remember? The ones that were so mundane your brain just didn't bother to record them. Hundreds, maybe thousands of nights come and go without being preserved by our memory. Does that ever freak you out? Like maybe your mind recorded all of the wrong nights?”

“You're different. And I'm different too. Different is good. But different is hard. Believe me, I know.” 

 Another aspect of the novel I loved was the letters that Leonard writes to himself from the future. It really gave me hope for my own future, that someday I'll have a loving family of my own, that I'll live in London and write for a living... 
It was a wonderful way to show us that Leonard is just like any other person, full of dreams and aspirations.

There are some witty lines, a few instances of tongue-in-cheek humour, but this is mostly a very serious novel. It is capable of making you cry. Most probably, it will make you cry. 
But it will also teach you many things that you might have forgotten, and it will show you that good and bad aren't mutually exclusive.

I'm going to go with 4.5 stars out of 5 for 'Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock'. 

In my opinion, it's 'The Catcher in the Rye' of this generation.
This book is definitely going on my Re-read List. If ever I'm alone, or afraid, or miserable, I'll pick this book up and remind myself how special I actually am. 

Oh, a fair warning: there is excessive swearing and some explicit themes in this novel, so I'd only recommend this for ages 14 and up. Also, if you're the kind of person who thinks suicide is a way to grab attention or that depression isn't a real mental illness, then don't read this book, because this book isn't meant for über-morons. 

More book reviews coming up soon, I promise! See you later, geekie friends. :)

2 comments:

  1. The reason I love this book is because I can really connect to it. Leonard and I, we have a lot in common. In fact, today is my birthday. I hate my birthdays.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can really relate to it, too, especially after the year I've had.

      Happy birthday, whether you hate them or not. I hope you get all you've ever wanted in this year to come. :)

      And thanks for reading and commenting!

      Delete

What's on your mind, Geeks? Let me know! :)