Book Review: Matthew Quick’s “Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock”

Published 12/9/13 by:

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Leonard Peacock surprised me. He surprised me in so many heartbreaking and amusing ways. I won’t lie to you; I picked this book off the “new young adult” shelf at the library because it shouted Silver Linings Playbook at me. That movie was twisted and simultaneously hilarious. Author Matthew Quick must be on to something, because he pulled off the same insane, uproarious, and often polarizing humor in Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock.  Is this a novel about teen suicide? Yes. Is it about family dysfunction, and discovering your own makeshift family? Yes. Would I hand this to any middle school student? No. Can I identify who the target audience of this novel is? Yes, but I’m not sure I’d lend them my copy. Herein lies the rub: This is a phenomenal young adult novel, and the craft of it is beyond the scope of anything I’ve read recently, but its darkness makes it a difficult book to recommend to teenagers without some serious apprehension. Basically, as a middle school English teacher, I feel a little stuck. I yearn for people to devour the sheer imaginative power of this novel. I want people to realize that Herr Silverman (Leonard’s history teacher who becomes so much more than that) is manifested in half the teachers I know. So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to preach to the adults, and then the teens. It won’t be easy.


To the adults (let’s categorize this as 17 or older): You know, knew or love someone like Leonard Peacock. He’s a hopeless dreamer, whose will to live has been squashed by neglectful parents, and a best friend who did an unforgivable thing. You may find him irrational, dramatic, charming, odd, sincere and lonely. You could become easily frustrated with him, his actions, and his reckless abandon. You will admire his letters from the future with tears in your eyes, and perhaps examine how you too can make your (dream/real) life more simplistically gorgeous.

Moment to appreciate: Leonard has just surprised his best friend with tickets to a Green Day show for his birthday. Post-show the two are hanging around the casino where the concert has ended.

“We really didn’t say much more than that; nothing all that extraordinary happened — just typical stupid-ass kid stuff.

Maybe it was the type of high only kids can get and understand.

There were hundreds of adults drinking alcohol and gambling and smoking that night, but I bet none of them felt the higher Asher and I did.

Maybe that’s why adults drink, gamble and do drugs — because they can’t get naturally lit anymore.

Maybe we lose that ability as we get older.

Asher sure did.” (Quick, 128)


To the teens: If you are already sad, then this may not be the book to look to. While this novel may include issues you’re dealing with (homosexuality, abuse, neglect, rape, suicide), it does not provide a lot of solutions, or happy endings. If you know someone battling these types of issues, then this book could actually be helpful in you gaining more knowledge about these topics. This book can be entertaining, educational and enlightening. In order for you to experience all of its assets you have to be in the right head space. I’m not sure if you know anyone like Leonard yet, and I worry that when you read this, you may see a bit of Leonard in everyone at your high school, or middle school. This concerns me, but knowing that you reading this book could motivate you to get a classmate help or attention makes me want to recommend it to you. I just don’t want you adopting any of Leonard’s ideas – unless they come straight out of his letters from the future.; In that case, imagine and adopt away.


Moment to appreciate: Leonard meets a Christian girl named Lauren who goes to the train station every day and asks people to give their life to Jesus. Leonard has no interest in Christianity, but has a monstrous crush on Lauren, so he sort of pretends to be interested in Christianity to woo her.

     “But I had to know what it was like to kiss her. I just did. I didn’t want to fake being interested in Christianity again, because I was so tired of faking it with everyone else in my life…I thought up a list of questions and I asked her a new one at the train station three times a week.

   Why would god allow the Holocaust to happen?

     If god made everything, why did he invent sin to trick us and then hold our sins against us?

     Why are there so many religions in the world if god created the world and wants us to be Christian?

     Why does god allow people to fight wars over him? (Quick, 152)


I apprehensively endorse this book to all teenagers. I wholeheartedly endorse it to adults. It’s my opinion that this book belongs in the modern young adult canon with Speak, Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Fault In Our Stars et al. I hope it garners enough attention to make its way there.

I tip my hat to you, Leonard. Here’s looking at you, kid.

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