Every now and then you read a book that just leaves with a feeling that is greater than wow. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is such a book.
Summary from Goodreads
Paperback, 231 pages
Published February 2nd 2009
by Pocket BooksISBN 1847394078 (ISBN13: 9781847394071)
And while he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his year yet socially awkward,he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.
Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can't stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.
I had heard so many good things about this book, that I put on my TBR list a while ago. But, like so many other books, it sat there for a while, lonely and unread. So, in keeping with my challenge, I selected this to read after I tired slightly of my romance binge. I think I ought mention, that I have always somewhat scoffed at coming of age stories. None of the great ones have really resonated with me. The only reason I even decided to give this one a try, was because it sounded different somehow.
And what a great book I picked up. The novel starts out choppy, clearly written by a young man who is intelligent and sensitive, but who also isn't the best writer. However, as the novel progresses and Charlie grows, so does the writing style. Always understated, always beautiful, Chbosky tells a story of a troubled young teen trying desperately to fit into the world and make sense of life.
When I say Charlie is troubled, I don't mean he has a bad home life. He comes from your average family, complete with squabbling siblings and loving parents. But it's clear that something deep within Charlie is upset, for lack of a better word. And as I read this novel of this caring, generous young man and the way he touched the lives of others, I was truly captivated by his depth and insight. So much so, that it brought me back to my glory days in the 90s (when the story takes place) and I recalled thinking and feeling along similar lines as Charlie does as he muses on then emerging but still taboo subjects such as homosexuality, domestic abuse, suicide, rape and drug use. Things we all knew about in the 90s, and we're beginning to talk about more openly, because after all, it was the 90s, but still walked on eggshells around. And the more I read, the more I wondered about Charlie. What was it that so set him apart from others, and yet made him so beloved?
The novel is written as a series of letters to an unknown person, someone Charlie has heard is kind and a good listener and addresses as "friend". The whole time I read, I felt like Charlie was talking to me, and I thought that this was a stroke of sheer writing genius on Chbosky's part. But because Charlie's voice is introspective, sometimes facts and scenes are not fully revealed. At times, Charlie returns to them, but sometimes he doesn't. And at the end of the novel, when Charlie is feeling very confused and his letter is disjointed and jarring, stating that he is all right and it's his last letter because he doesn't want to bother this friend anymore, my anxiety peaked until the epilogue.
And in those few pages, I moved beyond words. Charlie is so beloved, I realized, because he very special. His ability to realize at so young age that life is not about the bad things, or the what ifs and maybes, but about looking the starkness of life in the face and not letting it embitter you, blew me away. As in, amazed me with the clarity of this perception. Beautifully written and evocative, this novel has found its way onto my favourites shelves.
5 glittering stars