Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Remember how I broke my rule?  Well, I fixed it by reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Just like I suspected, the book is better than the movie, mostly because there is just more of it.  More Charlie, more books, more Rocky Horror Picture Show, just more context in general.

Through letters written to an anonymous "friend" Charlie describes his first year in high school, and also gives the reader insight into his childhood and teenage years.  The reader gets the feeling that Charlie has always been somewhat troubled.  He had to stop playing sports because they made him too aggressive.  He was always inside his head and had a hard time relating to his friends.  Now in high school, he doesn't have any friends because his best friend killed himself the year before.

But in a moment of bravery, Charlie reaches out to a boy in his shop class, Patrick and starts to get to know him and his step-sister, Sam.  He tries to participate in life, yet he is still content to watch from the sidelines and do whatever he can to ensure his friends happiness.  At his core, Charlie just wants everyone to be happy, even if that means being miserable himself.

This is a very moving book, and knowing the ending didn't exactly ruin it, but I do think that I picked up on subtle clues along the way.  Like every time someone told Charlie, "this is our little secret".  As a reader, I really felt for Charlie.  You want him to succeed, to be happy, but he can't understand how to do that for himself.  He thinks entirely too much.  I love the passage about his math class where he starts performing better when he stops questioning all the formulas and just starts using them.  He wants to understand everything and everyone, but you can't explain all the good and bad that happen in life.

I can see why this book is so often questioned.  Drug and alcohol use run rampant, and there are many episodes and stories of sex and sexual abuse.  It's not a pretty book.  It's not a light hearted, feel good novel, although I felt good at the end, because Charlie came to a better understanding of his life.  I also love how he thinks about perspective toward the end.  Charlie never liked to feel bad for himself because someone always has it worse, and that's true, but it's about your perspective.  What you are going through right now is difficult because it is happening to you.  You can't change what is happening to others, but you can deal with your own problems.

I still wish that I had read the book first.  Say it with me--The book is always better!  But batting out of order didn't hurt me so much this time, and it did bump Wallflower up on my to-read list.  If you are looking for a thoughtful book, then this is the one for you.

Happy Reading

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