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Revisited: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
As promised in August, this is my spoilerific post about Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock. At this point I assume knowledge: you read Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock; you read my initial review; and/or, you don’t care about spoilers.
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is not about a shooting. While I take Leonard and his pain seriously, I don’t think he’s a murderer or a killer. At the same time, I think he was lucky — had he access to a better gun, had he any experience with shooting guns, he may have become one. But, he didn’t. And this is not a story about Leonard almost killing a boy. It’s about Leonard being alone, and depressed, and suicidal, and having no one and no resources to help him battle that.
As much as I adored this book, and as much as I don’t think books should be messages or morals, the ending is almost not enough of a resolution for me. As I mentioned in my review, Leonard is alone, depressed, and isolated. Since the entire book is his point of view, often the view we get of other characters is not how they truly are but rather how he sees them. For instance, it’s clear to me that he wants Lauren to be his Manic Pixie Dream Girl or his Stargirl, someone who somehow saves him, but she turns out to be a real flesh and blood girl and that doesn’t happen. Yet, all along, one wonders just how much Lauren is like the person he describes to the reader.
And Leonard’s mom! Leonard reveals so few actual details (and I’m someone who notes timelines and such when reading) that while it’s clear she has physically and emotionally checked out on her son by moving to New York City and running a business, it’s unclear the time line on this. Did she leave him at fourteen? Fifteen? Last month? Since Leonard’s father has left the country and the government has seized their assets, and since his mother’s background is fashion, her choice of work and workplace makes sense. Yes, she is self involved and doesn’t realize the depression her son is in; yes, she seems to have dismissed ahead of time what could help him (she’s a “we’re not the kind of people who need therapy what would the neighbors think and it doesn’t work anyway” type); but I also wonder at what parts Leonard leaves out. Especially at the end, when she refers to “stunts” of Leonard that he himself has not told us about.
It’s not that she isn’t awful. I just wonder if she is as awful as Leonard paints her.
Asher Beal. Why does Leonard want to kill him? I was expecting bullying. I was expecting the betrayal of a lost best friend.
I was not expecting to find out that Asher was molested and raped by a beloved uncle, and that his twelve year old response was to in turn molest, abuse, rape, and manipulate Leonard for a two year period.
The horror of that is almost beyond my comprehension, and the horror I feel is both for Leonard and Asher.
Part of what scares the hell out of me about young adult books such as Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is the nightmare situations that some teens have to endure. Some adults deal with this horror by believing, ban the book. Out of sight, out of mind, and they can continue believing that kids’ lives are sweet and wonderful and trauma free. Me, I want these books for teens, for a variety of reasons. And I want them for adults as a reminder that this is the truth for some teens.
Back to Asher and Leonard. Part of Leonard’s anger at his mother is she didn’t realize the abuse was happening. Instead, if anything, she thought her son was gay. Which, you know? I can almost understand. I don’t tend to think of kids doing this to each other, when I think of abuse. And it’s further muddied by Asher being a victim, also.
Herr Silverman becomes Leonard’s lifeline. By seeing Leonard. By offering him a realistic hope, if that makes sense, in the advice of “not letting the world destroy you.” This, then, becomes Leonard’s ending: the last future letter he writes to himself is one that encourages him to believe in a future.
What I wish, though, is that it had been a bit more clear that Leonard needs more than letters to himself. Oh, there is a hint that more will happen. Herr Silverman has contacted Leonard’s mother, who both says they are not the type of people who need therapy but can afford any medicine Leonard needs. So, maybe, despite that contradiction, after the pages of the book he will get more help. Because as it is, I don’t think that Leonard just throwing away the gun, and telling someone about Asher, and writing himself a letter is enough to combat his isolation and depression.
What’s funny, though, is I also don’t like insta-cures for such complex issues. And yes, part of this is just Asher’s personality so shouldn’t be “fixed.” And I’m glad there was no easy answers offered at the end. So I’m not quite sure what more I do want, at the end.
So, your thoughts? On Leonard? His classmates? His mother? Asher?
Filed under: Reviews
About Elizabeth Burns
Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is email@example.com.
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