Khanh the Killjoy

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock - Matthew Quick I remember the day when Columbine happened. Of course, there have been school shootings before, and school shooting since, but as a young teen at the time, Columbine was the event that hit home...why? Because the people involved could easily have been me, or my friends. It was so covered by the media, we watched the footage in school, there were counselors, there were added security on my campus, there were a lot of hushed conversations, a lot of adults not knowing how to react, wanting to discuss it, but fearing that they'll overstep.This is a hard review for me to write, because I'm not sure how I feel about this book. I can relate to him somewhat. I know a lot of Leonard Peacocks in high school. The bullied, the neglected, the intellectually brilliant, yet unwilling to apply themselves because they don't see the point. I can't say whether any of them ever wanted to kill someone. That's not something you share with others, not if you want to get arrested in a post-Columbine world. I feel like Leonard is a cookie cutter stereotype of the kind who could snap. He's unlikeable, he's downtrodden at times, but he never felt like a real character, much less someone with whom I could ever feel anything less than apathy and disgust.I'm not sure what this book was trying to accomplish. Was it trying to make us sympathize with the main character, to understand his life, his mindset, before he sets out to kill Asher? It did not convince me.Was there simply no point? Maybe it is just the story of a teenager who snapped. Maybe we don't have to like the character. Maybe this book is just a mere insight into the mind of a below-average guy. To make us understand that this potential shooter is just like any other self-absorbed teenager all around the world---albeit one with an automatic and a mission to kill?This book is honest with its portrayal of the main character. I did not like Leonard, and I did not begin to have more developed sympathies towards him until the latter third of the novel. It is narrated through a first-person point of view, largely composed of Leonard's internal dialogue as he goes through his final day, peppered through with flashbacks as he remembers events and people from the past, and some really weird "letters from the future."Leonard is not a likeable character at all. Yes, he has a sad past, but to what extent does that excuse anything? Plenty of us have difficult lives, and have grown up all the stronger for it; I'm not convinced that is a justification for violence. He's got a neglectful, clueless mother, but Leonard has some excellent adult friends and mentors--Herr Silverman was a delight. He is bullied at school...somewhat, and I understand, really.I know what it's like to be bullied. Moving to a new country as a child, having a difficult-to-spell name, learning English, looking like a walking toothpick...those aren't exactly the qualities that made me popular as a child growing up. I sympathize with bullying, I really do, but I think it was brushed over too much in this book to make me feel like it was a major issue that ultimately led to Leonard's decision. The young women in the news who were bullied to such an extent that they killed themselves? That devastated me. And while I cannot judge the effects of bullying on every person's state of mind, because everyone perceives and persists through things differently, the bullying was just not well-portrayed, and largely glossed over within this book.Leonard is more self-absorbed and self-conscious than a typical teenager. He is critical of everyone and everything. He is a hypocrite. I'm not saying that teenagers must be perfect in their actions and their thoughts; it is the nature of development that we go through this stage of intense awareness as we grow up...but the things that goes on within Leonard's mind and his actions doesn't exactly endear me to him.One overwhelming impression you get of Leonard is that he asks questions. All the time. He's like a 3 year old who keeps asking why, why, why?! He routinely ditches class dozens of time to conduct what he calls "practice-adulthood days," when he picks a person, stalks them, and seemingly annoys the hell out of him. Leonard has a weakness for old-fashioned movie starlet types, and during one of his "days," he follows a tragic-looking woman into an alley and stalks her. Then he asks her weird, personal questions, then acts offended when she calls him a pervert.On another day, he comes across another one of his Lauren Bacall types, a home-schooled hard-core Christian missionary girl who is spouting the gospels of Jesus at people who, frankly, don't give a crap. Leonard automatically zeroes in on her, and is determined to win her. Like the pretentious, extremely inquisitive little shit that he is, he zeroes in on her, and figures that since he's paying attention to her, since he's singling her out, she should be grateful to him because she owes him something for his expressed interest. She kept looking eagerly at the people coming out of the subway station and wasn’t really paying me much attention anymore, which I thought was weird, since I was the only person who had taken her pamphlet. You’d think she’d concentrate on winning me over, right?Naturally, when Lauren doesn't fall for him, he thinks she's an evil femme fatale.I felt so tricked by Lauren. Being eaten by her was one thing, but introducing me to her boyfriend after she’d led me on—that was entirely unacceptable. She used her femme fatale skills to get me into her church, bait-and-switch style.He's pretentious, he's entitled. He is a special snowflake. Leonard doesn't think the rules apply to him. It's not just ditching school, it's choosing not to answer the multiple choice questions on a two-part exam because he doesn't feel like it. He argues with teachers for shits and giggles. He shows up to class late. He classifies everyone into categories, he never sees the good in things. Granted, skepticism is part of growing up, but he just has an overwhelming amount of it. The jocks are dumb troglodytes, the smart kids are suck-ups. The world is inferior to Leonard Peacock.The reveal behind what made him want to kill Asher Beal was devastating...but the way it was written, the way it was so tightly pushed away by Leonard's narrative didn't make me sympathize with him that much. Yes, I know it is a deeply serious problem, but there's a possibly deliberate lack of emotion that kept him at a distance from me, and I still didn't end up completely understanding what ultimately made Leonard snap. This book never succeeded in convincing me of anything.Possibly. Maybe. Perhaps. Am I meant to enjoy this book? Am I meant to sympathize with Leonard? Am I supposed to hate him? Maybe that's my problem. I enjoy a book that makes me think, but not a book that makes me second-guess myself that much. There's too many questions in my mind throughout reading this book to make it enjoyable; a book doesn't necessarily have to be fun and light to be enjoyable, but this book lacks the quality that absorbs me.