Standing on the fringes of life… offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.
This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
This is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.
Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up.
Anyone who is remotely interested in reading this book – because you’re reading this review, your friend told you to read it, or you want to read it before you see the movie, whatever – should not read the synopsis. Odd for me to say that since I just copied it here, but just hear me out.
I didn’t know there was a movie coming out until two days ago. I did, however, pick up the book from a table at a bookstore several weeks ago and read the back. I immediately put it down. It didn’t strike me as particularly interesting, or any different or more unique than any of the other YA novels I have read lately, so I didn’t give it a second thought. And then, I saw a movie poster on Facebook and, because I make it good practice to read the book before I see the movie, I went against my better judgment and purchased the book on my Nook.
Also, the cover is terrible. Like the synopsis, it doesn’t do the book justice. Instead of a movie promo, this should be the permanent cover:
The novel ended up being one of my favorite YA books. Definitely in my top ten of 2012 (though it was published back in 1999).
Charlie is not a teenager who gives himself up to sex, drugs, and getting trashed. Though he does experience these things, they are not the focus of his young life nor do they rule his existence. Through his letters, Charlie is more interested in friendship (real friendship, not just someone to “hang” with), love, family. Regardless of the fact that his sister is less than cordial towards him throughout the entire book, he is there for her when she needs him. He is there for everyone.
“I love my mom so much. I don’t care if that’s corny to say. I think on my next birthday, I’m going to buy her a present. I think that should be the tradition. The kid gets gifts from everybody, and he buys one present for his mom since she was there, too. I think that would be nice.”
This is one of the reasons that I am so glad that I ignored the poorly written synopsis and read this book. The other reason being the supporting characters in this book. Mainly, Patrick and Sam. All these characters, including Charlie, have a mind of their own. They are not molded by the influence of peer pressure, or by a vocabulary insulting to the human race – they are real people. They have their own opinions on life and proudly voice them. I think all YA novelists should read this book, and keep an open mind to learn from it. Some of the failure that is character development (or lack thereof) in some of today’s YA novels is laughable. Obviously I’m not talking about all YA books here – it IS my favorite genre for a reason – but about some of these books that exploit the teenage condition for what it’s not. You can’t listen to one sentence a teenager says today and assume you understand every teenager that ever lived. We were not (all) these brainless creatures back when we were teenagers, and teenagers today (or in the future) shouldn’t be portrayed as such. Stephen Chbosky obviously got a hold on that when he wrote The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and because of it will be known as the great American novelist that he is.
I think this book embodies the human condition, and what it means to be yourself in a world that is unsure of you. I would recommend this wonderful novel to readers, writers – anyone who misses that moment when you’re reading something and suddenly your heart gets warm and you smile, because you remember what it was like to grow up. Really grow up.