Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

Book review by
Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock Book Poster Image
Misfit plans murder and suicide in painful, powerful book.

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Kids say

age 13+
Based on 4 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The material is mature throughout, but Leonard's story could lead to many provocative conversations about a wide range of topics including teen bullying, sexual abuse, violence, and suicide -- and how to help those outside the mainstream feel connected and appreciated. Leonard also is obsessed with Shakespeare's play Hamlet and by old-fashioned films, which may lead readers to explore these media.

Positive Messages

There's a lot here that teens will find painful and distressing, but there's hope, too: Leonard's teacher tells him, "I know how hard being different can be. But I also know how powerful a weapon being different can be. How the world needs such weapons. Gandhi was different. All great people are."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Readers will love Leonard's inspiring Holocaust teacher and even his crazy elderly neighbor, Walt, both people who truly care for him. Leonard's certainly not a hero -- he is actively trying to murder a classmate, after all -- but his perspective may help high school readers see the humanity in some of the outsiders in their own schools.

Violence

Leonard is planning to murder his former best friend and then kill himself with a Nazi gun he inherited from his grandfather. He reveals he was raped for years by a friend (who himself was sexually assaulted by an adult) and that his mother ignored the abuse, even when she walked in on them. He fights his friend physically to get him to stop, ending up with bruises. He witnesses the boys in his PE class bullying a Persian kid with hockey sticks until he's nearly unconscious. He also discusses slitting his wrist as a way to commit suicide, and the book mentions that information about the act is available on the Internet.

Sex

In the fictional letters he writes from the future, Leonard creates a wife who says they have lots of sex (and that she was pregnant before they were married). Leonard tells his teacher his mother is a nymphomaniac. He's sexually attracted to a Christian girl he meets and stares at her thighs when they meet to talk about religion; the tract she gives him is about the dangers of premarital intercourse and includes some description of teens having sex. Later, they kiss, and he forces her to continue even after she has told him to stop. Leonard sees his former friend masturbating in his room. 

Language

Heavy use of profanity throughout including "s--t," "f--k," and "a--hole." Leonard admits that his elderly neighbor uses racist epithets including the "N" word.

Consumerism

A few brand mentions, such as Pall Mall Red, La-Z-Boy, TGI Fridays, Coke, Vans, and Harold & Kumar.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Leonard's neighbor smokes heavily, and Leonard helps him find cheap cigarettes on the Internet. He also talks about a girl who throws parties with heavy drinking and includes how one student overdosed at her house (because her dad's the mayor, she never gets in trouble with police).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is a book about the title character planning to murder his former best friend and then kill himself with a Nazi gun he inherited from his grandfather. This gritty, poignant coming-of-age story has lots of mature content, including the revelation that a boy was raped for years by a friend (who himself was sexually assaulted by an adult). Boys in PE class bully a Persian kid with hockey sticks until he's nearly unconscious. A boy pressures a girl sexually, continuing to kiss her even after she tells him to stop, and he later sees his friend masturbate in his room. Leonard's elderly neighbor smokes heavily and uses racist epithets, including the "N" word, and strong language is used heavily throughout  (including "s--t," "f--k," and "a--hole"). There's a lot here that teens will find painful and distressing, but there's hope, too: Leonard's teacher tells him, "I know how hard being different can be. But I also know how powerful a weapon being different can be. How the world needs such weapons. Gandhi was different. All great people are."

User Reviews

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Teen, 14 years old Written byBetty L. December 20, 2013

Good Book

FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK is an inspiring and intense book which I liked a lot. I recommend it for kids fourteen and up. It is a very emotionally graphic stor... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byGoldfish April 27, 2015

Brilliant for teens who like to think

I read the book at the age of 13, which was probably a touch too young. I wasn't horrifically disturbed by it, BUT my parents are very open about issues su... Continue reading

What's the story?

On Leonard Peacock's 18th birthday, the brilliant but broken teen plans to murder his former best friend and then kill himself. He spends the day giving out gifts to the few people he cares about -- including his elderly, Humphrey Bogart-obsessed next door neighbor; a beautiful Christian girl who has tried to convert him; and his wonderful Holocaust teacher -- slowly revealing to readers the traumas that have brought him to this tragic moment and why he is \"hoping that I merely cease to exist.\" Even so, readers will understand that, even on his darkest day, Leonard is looking for an excuse to continue living: Within his narration, he includes pretend letters that he's written from loved ones in the future, telling him to hold on (even these letters paint a tragic post-nuclear future, but there, Leonard has a family and a job that lets him swim with mutant dolphins and \"live in the moment\" with those who understand him).

Is it any good?

FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK is a carefully constructed coming-of-age story in the same vein as The Catcher in the Rye. Like Catcher's Holden, Leonard is in pain and frustrated by a hypocritical society but doesn't know how to connect with people, and he often puts off even the people he cares about. There are strikingly realistic and painful scenes throughout, such as Leonard's failed attempt to get his mostly absent mother to make him chocolate-chip banana pancakes. Readers will be especially moved and mesmerized by his beautiful but rather melancholy hopes for his own future.

The material is mature, but Leonard's story could lead to many provocative conversations about a wide range of topics including teen bullying, sexual abuse, violence, and suicide -- and how to help those outside the mainstream feel connected and appreciated.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Leonard's teacher's message that "[a]ll great people are [different]." What do you think of this idea?

  • Do you think books about teen suicide help raise awareness and contribute to suicide prevention? What others have you read that have been popular and influential? 

  • Leonard accuses his classmates of "head-in-the-sand logic," meaning they don't want to know how things really work so long as they get what they want. Do you think that's a fair assessment of American teen culture?

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