November 16, 2011
I just finished reading this book called The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. It’s a pretty short book, so it didn’t take too long to read. Add to the fact that though I had a paperback copy in my bag, I read an e-book version at work, to kill time. It took me about 2 days to finish.
The story is about Charlie, a boy of 15 at the start of the book, who relates to a friend all the important things that happened to him throughout the school year. It was actually his fear of starting high school that prompted him to start writing in the first place.
Incidentally, it is a coming of age story about the trials of growing up – dealing with high school bullies, falling in love, breaking up, making new friends, losing old friends, experimenting with drugs, and alcohol, thinking, having (or not having) sex for the first time, discovering books and music, and all the ups and downs of being a teenager.
Charlie is a smart, but strange, kid. He thinks a lot about everything and his teacher tells him that he uses this as an excuse not to ‘participate’ in the real world. He is a very sensitive, emotional teenager who, without knowing why at first, undergoes bad times in his life. Throughout his first year of high school, he does what most kids his age do, while trying to figure out who he really is and how he fits into the larger scheme of things.
Charlie tries to be a good son, a good brother, a good student, and a good friend, but by trying to please and understand everybody, he neglects his own feelings, wants, and needs, and forgets to live his own life.
The book made a lot of references to songs and music which work to set the mood and tone of the novel, and it made references to other novels with similar themes, such as The Catcher in the Rye, A Separate Peace, On the Road, etc.
However, unlike Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye, I really couldn’t relate to Charlie. It could be because I was actually 15 or 16 when I first read The Cather in the Rye, and I’m a lot older now. I don’t know. Maybe a lot of teenagers would be able to relate to Charlie if they read this.
Though I did enjoy reading the book, I found it to be a bit corny and sentimental. I also felt that the format Chbosky chose to present his story didn’t present many challenges for him, in terms of writing. Though with this kind of story, I guess it worked.
All in all, I’m glad I read it. It’s interesting to learn about the troubles and concerns of teenagers from different generations. Some things are different, but lots of things are the same, like the need to belong and to be accepted while trying to have a unique identity; the need to make memories and to hang on to feelings; and the need to know that your existence in the world is not just random.
By the way, Charlie really liked the song, Asleep by The Smiths, and it really does capture the mood of the book, so I’m going to include a link here. I hope you listen to it while reading parts of the book – it really goes well together.