Sunday, 21 October 2012
REVIEW: 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' by Stephen Chbosky
What's it about?
The main character who calls himself Charlie is about to begin his first year of high school and feels apprehensive due to the recent suicide of his only good friend Michael. He doesn't feel he can talk to his parents or siblings, as the only person in the family who understood him was his Aunt Helen who died on Charlie's seventh birthday. At school he soon befriends two seniors- Sam and Patrick, who along with his English teacher, introduce Charlie to many new experiences.
What did I think of it?
This is an extremely popular and well loved novel, but it fell a bit flat for me. I found the idea that a rather weird and shy freshman had become such good friends with seniors rather unrealistic, and I think that disconnected me from the novel a little. Also it reminds me of The Catcher in the Rye which I hated, and Before I Die which I wasn't blown away by either. It's a genre that I don't seem to get on with too well. Despite this, I did like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, there is something special about this book, and I can understand why it is a favourite book for a lot of people.
The novel is presented in form of letters from Charlie to an anonymous friend, who he hears the girls at school talking about fondly. I thought the epistolary form of the novel worked very well, and I soon felt I was the 'Friend' that these letters were addressed to. In these letters you learn about the personal growth of Charlie through the many new things he experiences, leading to him feeling that he doesn't have to be a wallflower. The letters document all all Charlie's observations, feelings and activities. The letters are jammed pack with popular culture, with songs, films and literature playing a large part. I really liked the use of literature and songs in the book. The letters also deal with friendship, suicide, abuse, sex, drugs and depression. From the letters you can see the development of Charlie's relationships with the other characters in the novel. I particularly liked seeing the relationship he had with his sister change and develop, and gradually learning about his past. I'm still unsure how I felt about his relationships with Sam and Patrick. I enjoyed the scenes between them but in the back of my head I constantly had that nagging feeling that in real life it would never happen.
It's is a very commonly quoted novel, and I understand why. It contains lots of beautiful and sometimes quite deep quotes. Charlie's voice is very striking, and is a highlight of the novel for me. It is child-like yet at the same time wise and adult. Charlie makes observations which we often take for granted and it is quite moving to hear his remarks on these occasions. For instance:
"The fact that one of these ladies was my mom made me particularly sad because my mom is beautiful. And she’s always on a diet. Sometimes, my dad calls her beautiful, but she cannot hear him."
This quote rings incredibly true for a lot of women and I know it frustrates and saddens me. Probably the most common quotes from Perks are : “We accept the love we think we deserve.” and “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite."
Chobosky's writing is excellent. The humour is very dry, and the whole novel is incredibly touching. I found the second half of the book far more enjoyable than the first. It took awhile to get used to Charlie and let my doubts go, but by the end I was definitely moved, and feeling rather emotional! I think this is a novel that requires a re-read to appreciate fully.
I think everyone should read this book, you may not love it (I didn't) but I think it is an experience that one should have, especially adolescents.
Goodreads Reading Challenge
This book is number 13 out of 50