I knew going into it, that Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick was going to be a tough read in some ways. After all, you find out within the first few pages that Leonard Peacock is planning to shoot a classmate then kill himself. This plot point on its own is heavy stuff, not to mention the likely revelation of what event or events are motivating Leonard to walk toward this choice. However, having read Matthew Quick's novel Silver Lining's Playbook, I was confident in Quick's ability to handle serious subjects. Thankfully, my confidence was rewarded. Quick sheds light on subjects like depression, severe loneliness, bullying, abandonment, and abuse, and puts them in a context of hope. He tells a story that is respecful of pain, trauma, and despair, but approaches it from the viewpoint of someone who believes that people can help each other through these desperate situations.
Now, I'm not going to lie: this book was heartbreaking, and it's not going to be for everyone. Kids being abused isn't exactly easy to read about, even in past tense. It would be easy to get bogged down thinking about how there are real kids going through this kind of stuff (and more) every day. And the ending isn't exactly "and they all lived happily ever after." Of course...that all depends on how you look at it.
Clearly, I connected with the tone and heart and themes of this book. But more than that, Quick is a talented writer. Leonard's voice rings true, and each character is distinctive. And something that stood out to me personally: Leonard strikes up a slightly odd relationship with a teenage girl who hands out Christian tracts at the train station, and I appreciate that Quick writes this character respectfully. Lauren is very firm in her faith and beliefs, but it's a blind faith -- the faith of a teenage girl who hasn't delved deep into the things she's always been taught. Leonard asks her some valid and tough questions, and she doesn't really have satisfactory answers (in fact, she gets a little upset at Leonard's challenges). As a Christian, I wanted to sit down with Leonard and answer his questions -- they were good questions! Perfect for some honest dialog about faith and God. And I wanted to sit down with Lauren and say -- look, sweetie, I appreciate your determination and doggedness, but you need to step back and really THINK. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be afraid of a deeper look.
Anyway, that stood out to me, but probably won't to other readers in quite the same way. The bottom line is: this book is heartbreak and hope. A wake-up call and a challenge.