The Perks of Being A Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky

I hope everyone had a very lovely Valentines, with whoever you have to share love with. Perhaps a girlfriend, a husband, a sister, or mother – Valentine’s is the day of love. Although I have a lovely boyfriend to share my life with, our night didn’t end up being very romantic. We had planned on renting a movie to watch, and that was about it. Well, the only movie I wanted to see had just been released this week, and I had the book on the shelf I’ve been meaning to read…So while he watched sprint car videos on youtube, I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Eventually he got bored of youtube, asked if I still wanted to rent a movie afterall, and eventually left to work on his own sprint car. I was perfectly happy about that – I had barely lifted my head from the book as he asked me questions. The Truths of Dating a Bookworm?? :-)

PerksWallflower

I finished the book in about four and a half hours; it was a lot quicker than I anticipated, being a young adult novel. It’s told, as some of my favorite books are, in a series of letters. A boy named Charlie writes these letters pseudo-anonymously to someone he’s apparently heard of but never met …I’m not completely clear on that part, but he doesn’t want the person he’s writing to to know who he is… He begins writing the letters just before he starts high school. One of his middle school friends just killed himself, and I guess he needs someone to talk to.

The letters start at a pretty elementary writing level and progresses as Charlie’s first year of high school does. I do have a few quibbles with this book, and the writing at the beginning is one of them. He’s 15 years old and reads voraciously. I think he would be at quite an adequate writing level already, making only minimal progress through one year of high school, but I understand what the author was trying to accomplish.

The time span of this book is quite clear: 1 year of high school, Charlie’s freshman year; but it really seems like a lot longer than that. The book does an absolutely brilliant job of conveying the emotions and (some of the) ‘landmarks’ of growing up. I really think that is the shining light of this novel. Charlie is a very anxious and thoughtful/reflective personality (similar to myself). He has very deep thoughts sometimes, and frequently thinks about things until they turn into something almost scary. He seems to know a lot of people with extreme problems, and has some himself, which I thought was borderline unrealistic. There is something revealed in the epilogue that I think did not need to be there – at all – and actually sort of ruined the story for me. To me, it sort of seemed like the author was trying to pack ALL teen problems into one book. There is teen pregnancy, lots of drugs and sex, kids who were molested as children, and people who were physically abused as well. It almost seems to be a major theme, but just beneath the surface. I mean, this kid is a freshman (although his friends are seniors and he has older siblings as well)…I guess it just didn’t seem realistic, really, so it remains just a fictional story, and I’m not able to picture this kid living out there anywhere, for real.

I did really like his ‘philosophy’ on books. He likes to read books twice in a row, and the last book he reads is always his favorite one. Another trait of Charlie’s I loved was the thought he put into the gifts he gave. He always made sure he found something that the person would really love, whether they realized it beforehand or not. I received a gift like this once, from my father, and it is the greatest feeling. Charlie is a good kid.

There are some really good lessons in this book as well. Charlie’s friend Patrick urges him to stop living in his head so much and to be ‘present’, which is something Charlie really takes to heart and strives toward throughout the book. I think this lesson is extremely relevant today, not only for big thinkers, but for anyone with a cell phone with internet capabilities. Technology has taken over so much of our lives that we frequently forget to be ‘present’. It struck a chord in me when I read over it the first time, and I think it’s something that I take with me from this novel. I also love the expression he uses a few times in this book

‘I feel infinite’

All in all, it was a pretty good book. I think it has a pretty specific demographic – high school kids. I can see how many people relate to it though, who are older. Like I said, Chbosky really captures the feeling of growing up and learning some of the most important life lessons about love and friendship. It’s that trait that won its spot on my bookshelf. I gave this book three stars on goodreads but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the five hours it takes to read!

Because I flagged a few bits of this book, I’d like to share them with you::

‘It’s like he would take a photograph of Sam, and the photograph would be beautiful. And he would think that the reason the photograph was beautiful was because of how he took it. If I took it, I would know that the only reason it’s beautiful is because of Sam.’

‘I don’t know if you’ve ever felt like that. That you wanted to sleep for a thousand years. Or just not exist. Or just not be aware that you do exist. Or something like that.’

Until next time,

Emma

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4 thoughts on “The Perks of Being A Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky

  1. I read this when I was in high school and I really liked it, but I haven’t read it since…I do remember thinking, though, that his experience seemed a bit unrealistic. At least compared to mine. But I suppose my high school life was pretty boring.

    • I forgot to mention this is supposed to have taken place in 1991-1992. Yeah, there were a lot of unrealistic aspects. He’s a freshman, but he turns 16 and gets his driver’s license? That seems very early.

      I think a lot of the writing makes up for it though…Charlie really saw the truth in things, and it’s great to read it. I also cuts through a lot of flak by condensing events into letters.

      Honestly I think most people’s lives in high school is boring…which is why this seems a bit unrealistic I think!
      Thanks for the comment!

      • I agree with you that epistolary novels are just ever so slightly more fun than regular ones :) I thought that was a really cool way of getting around the first-person narration thing, which always has me wondering “Are they writing this down? How is this happening?” But maybe that’s just me.

        Anyway, for a great epistolary novel, read Evelina by Fanny Burney. It’s a very Jane-Austeny/Charlotte Bronte-y kind of book. I loved it.

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