Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

Publisher: Headline Book Publishing

It's Leonard Peacock's 18th birthday - but it's also the day he has decided to kill his former best friend and then himself, with a World War II pistol he has inherited from his grandfather. In his final hours, he makes up his mind to say goodbye to the four people who matter most to him. First, there's walt, his chain-smoking elderly neighbour with whom he watches hours of Humphrey Bogart films; then there's Baback, the classmate and violin virtuoso whose performances have delighted him for years; next is Lauren, the homeschooled pastor's daughter (and Lauren Bacall lookalike) he's always longed to kiss; and finally there's Herr Silverman, who teaches his high school class on the Holocaust, and who seems to understand him more than anyone else.

As he visits each of them to give them a parting gift, Leonard gradually reveals the reasons why he has made this drastic and terrible decision. But as the moment of truth approaches, Leonard slowly begins to realise that maybe he still has quite a lot to live for after all.

This is a touching and powerful young adult novel about a teenage boy struggling with some serious issues. In less capable hands, it could easily become saccharine, but Matthew Quick deftly blends together darkness and light, bitterness and hope, highlighting the absurd as well as the poignant side of Leonard's story. Related in a blunt, confessional first person narrative, this tale of an angsty high-school misfit trying to find his place in the world follows in the tradition of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Catcher in the Rye.

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