I decided to read this book for a few reasons:
- Many people recommended it to me,
- I think the title is intriguing, and
- I have a rule about not seeing movies before reading the book, but I wanted to see the movie since Emma Watson is in it. 🙂
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is a marvelous coming of age story. The main character, Charlie, writes letters to an anonymous stranger throughout his first year of high school. He is generally misunderstood, his peers regard him as a freak, and his only friend dies before the school year starts through an act of suicide. When two half-sibling seniors, Sam and Patrick, take him under their wing his world begins to change.
The book is a quick and easy read but don’t let the simplicity fool you. The story has a depth. The reader learns that Charlie was molested by a family member, causing him to become a passive person, who allows others to do what they want with him. He witnesses a rape, he accepts drugs and alcohol, he has a girlfriend he doesn’t really like and he even allows his gay friend Patrick to kiss him during his post-breakup grieving period. Charlie doesn’t recognize that these things upset him because he sees they help others and he internalizes his own thoughts and feelings. Sam, encourages Charlie to express himself and show passion for his own desires.
Charlie learns about being a friend, sex and intimacy (though he himself does not have sex), drugs such as LSD, marijuana, and alcohol, homosexuality, homophobia (a scene where a father beats his gay son), Rocky Horror Picture Show, abortion (his sister), suicide, rape and molestation. He earns straight A’s in school and displays heartwarming relationships with his family (mom, dad, older sister, and older brother). Charlie also has a tender relationship with his English teacher who assigns him extra reading and work because he recognizes how special and intelligent Charlie is.
It’s hard to determine the way this book made me feel. I believe the writing was excellent and here’s why. I felt uncomfortable reading something so private (from a fictional character, yes! How can this be done?) Needless to say, it’s not a feel-good story but rather a question-humanity-and-your-very-existence kind of book.
My Favorite Quotes:
- “We are infinite”
- “We accept the love we think we deserve.”
- “Zen is a day like this when you are part of the air and remember things.”
- “I really think that everyone should have watercolors, magnetic poetry and a harmonica.”
- “I don’t think we should base so much on weight, muscles, and a good hair day, but when it happens, it’s nice. It really is.”
- “So this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”
What did you think?