It’s always a pleasant surprise when I pick up a book I’ve known about for years, truly not expecting much, and find that it is REALLY DAMN GOOD! This was my reading experience with Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” This book was published in 1999 (I was in middle school then!) and I finished it a few nights ago. It was kinda amazing, and I’ll tell you why…
The main character Charlie is a real treasure, in my opinion. If you’ve read the book, you know that he’s incredibly sensitive (borderline crazy-sensitive). However, that didn’t detract from my appreciation of the story and character. I found it refreshing to read a character who doesn’t enjoy being the center of attention, who instead prefers to observe others, and who (not-so-calmly) lives inside his head to an insane degree. (I suppose I relate because I just described myself). I found myself in this character, friends, and I couldn’t help but feel emotionally connected with Charlie on several levels.
This book starts out with Charlie starting his freshman year in high school, a time most of us know to be at least some degree of nerve-wracking and intimidating. (I understand that we didn’t ALL feel this overwhelmed when starting this new phase of our lives, but come on, be human and admit that it wasn’t an easy transition at first!) Anyway, our main guy here is not sure what he thinks of all these new social arrangements and contacts. From his diary entries (you’ll understand why he writes in diary entries when you read the book), it’s clear he’s spent most of his life locked inside his curiously inventive imagination, not really living on the outside in any real capacity. He’s accustomed to the sidelines, being what I indeed still kinda am: a “wallflower,” most comfortable observing others and living vicariously through the people around him.
Charlie is anxious and too aware of how he just doesn’t fit in. His older brother and sister have their own hormonally-induced personalities and lives, and they don’t really connect with or understand him. Charlie’s really struggling with what might possibly be wrong with him. Although he lacks social grace, he doesn’t lack insight in any sense of the word. After all, he’s always in his head, thinking, dammit, and that’s the curse of insight for wallflowers everywhere: it’s very persistent. Early in the novel he meets Sam and Patrick, a brother and sister duo, who introduce him to even more complex situations and emotions in his young life. I’m not going to spoil anything for potential readers of the book, so suffice is to say Charlie is going to get a good healthy dose of teenage inspiration that will only lead to even more confusion. (By the way, acid doesn’t improve any already-confused situation. Just saying…)
He struggles with the typical teenage complications:
- how to get through life without drowning in his self-induced misery (a.k.a. his personality)
- how not to alienate and frustrate girls (and guys) who might or might not be interested in him as a romantic partner
- how to meet and bond with strangers…who might or might not become friends
- how to maintain his sanity (his half-sanity, in his opinion) in the constantly-changing landscape of High School Land
- how to deal with his slightly-dysfunctional family (his grandfather’s a trip lol)
- how to find a sense of INFINITE-ness that doesn’t require him to be on drugs or under the influence of anyone else in his life, etc.
As you’ll see, if you read the book, he makes a mess of most of this stuff, but in the end he still comes out on top. Well, that’s pushing it, really…he still emerges as himself, just a wiser, more evolved version of himself. Do any of us ever really accomplish much more in this life? And, is anything more important?
I loved the book because I found myself in Charlie’s introspective nature, and was delighted to find myself cheering for him with the turn of every page. He’s really one of the most likable characters you’re going to meet. I laughed so much throughout, even when things were quite somber and reflective. He’s a slyly humorous guy, that Charlie, and it makes all the difference in the world. The book is great because it isn’t bogged down with just the weight of all this teenage angst and confusion; it provides the necessary humor and lighthearted moments we all need in this life.
By the way, I tried to watch the movie version of the book but my file didn’t work correctly so I’ll have to wait for it on Netflix. I’m pretty sure the book will be better than the movie, but it might come close if the acting is anywhere near my expectations. The author directed the movie, so that’s a bonus!
I’ll be moving along now, friends, as I’ve started another book and also must get ready for my trip to Michigan on Saturday! I will be on hiatus for the week of August 8-15, and possibly a few days beyond. I am going to visit my fiance and we’re planning on having a blast I’ll probably need a few days recovery from when I get back! Ciao for now, and please tell me what you’re reading this first hot week of August!
Forever Between Pages,