Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
By Stephen Chbosky
Publisher: MTV
Published on February 1999
ISBN-13: 9780671027346
224 pages

Page 37: “He’s a wallflower.
“You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.”

Charlie, a teenage boy, begins writing a series of letters starting August 25, 1991 addressing them to his ‘friend’. Coincidentally in 1991, I was 14 and probably the same age as Charlie. I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower with the mindset of a teen and I could relate to what he is trying to convey that affects young adults at that stage of their lives: friendship, family, death, sex, alcohol, drugs. The only difference is that Charlie is a boy and I am a girl.

One thing that is unusual about Charlie is that he cries very easily. He is also quiet. The way he writes almost makes him sound like a girl and while I enjoyed reading his jottings, I kept having this feeling that something may be “wrong” with him. No boy would write like that but back in 1991 anything could happen, so I continued reading with an open mind. He is honest, perceptive, blunt and at the same time gentle and caring.

When his best friend Michael committed suicide, he becomes friendless. He cries when the news is announced over the school’s PA system. Later he befriends two seniors named Sam and Patrick, and is exposed to the world of rock and roll, sex, drugs, and the 'Rocky Horror Picture Show'. Through it all, Charlie learns about life. He likes Sam but Sam is attached to another promiscuous guy named Craig (but Sam does not know about Craig’s promiscuity). He is also exposed to his friends’ secrets. For example, Patrick has a girlfriend but the truth is he is not a regular guy.

I enjoyed reading about how Charlie’s advanced English named Bill keeps giving him additional books to read. The teacher sees that he has great skills in reading and understanding language, and he gives Charlie additional assignments in the form of essay writing. I sincerely wish I had such a teacher when I was still a student. What Bill said touched me:

“So, when the school year ends, and I’m not your teacher anymore, I want you to know that if you ever need anything, or want to know about more books, or want to show me anything you write, or anything, you can always come to me as a friend. I do consider you a friend, Charlie.”

This book is said to be something like The Catcher in the Rye and perhaps that would be the next book I read—time to push it up my to-be-read pile. It also reminded me of The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night by Mark Haddon with its similar writing style. Although my teenage years were not as dramatic as Charlie’s, reading this book sure made me reminisce about those growing up years. I like this book!

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