I don’t know how or why I never managed to read this book in high school, but Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower has been on my list for years. With the film coming out this Friday, I knew I had to read it, and with a cross-country flight last week, I finished the entire thing (only 140 pages). There’s so much I want to say about this book, but the short length doesn’t let me say much without spoiling it! So, I guess I’ll try to be generic, but not trite.
Perks is the story of Charlie and his first year of high school. In letters to a pen pal, he tells us all about going from a bullied loner to making friends with Patrick and Sam, seniors who are step-siblings. Patrick and Sam find that Charlie is genuine and take him in, giving him a group to belong in, and experiences that make high school high school. Charlie internalizes so many of his feelings and thoughts, but he is an astute observer of the world around him. I often wondered if he was on the spectrum, as his candor and awkwardness are in line with the spectrum. When I was reading, I was often reminded of Christopher from Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. But Charlie isn’t on the spectrum. He just sees and experiences life differently than others and is honest about it. I suppose that would be the definition of teenage angst.
Through one year of living, we see that Charlie’s story has a lot to it, and even though he appears socially awkward and out there, he is completely genuine. As a reader, I really felt for Charlie. He just explains what it feels like to be the different kid in school, without ever saying that he is.
After reading the book, I’m really looking forward to the film version, as it was written and directed by Chbosky himself. And it’s starring Emma Watson! Of course, we all love her as Hermione, but I have no doubt that she can break out of that role and reinvent herself. In real life, she carries herself with poise and an internal beauty that her character, Sam, has as well. Mae Whitman is also in the film, and she is spectacular on Parenthood, so I’m just going to have to watch it, even if I’ll cry my eyes out.
Sorry about the vague summary and review. This book was candid and angsty and one of those coming-of-age classics.