Monday, October 8, 2012

Review: The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Title: The Perks of Being A Wallflower
Author: Stephen Chbosky
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
First publication: February 1, 1999
Release Date: February 2, 2009
Publisher: Pocket Books
Pages: 231
Format: Paperback
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read from September 26 to 27, 2012
My rating: 4 stars: I really like it + Favorite
Summary: This is the story of what it's like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed 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.

So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we'll never know most of them. But even if we don't have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them. 

Honestly, I don't know how to begin to write this review, so I'm starting it with this lame sentence just so I can finally start it after thinking about it for over a week. Normally when I leave a book unreviewed this long after finishing, I won't bother anymore, because I'll have forgotten what I want to say anyway. But not this book. I guess I have a lot of things to say about The Perks of Being A Wallflower but no ways to say them. None that I find good enough anyway.

Through a series of letters addressed to an unknown recipient, 15-year-old Charlie tells his story. It involves a lot of problems, I think all of the problems, that teenagers go through. It's interesting how this book was first published in 1999, and now thirteen years later these problems are still relevant in today's society. What he goes through isn't much different from what teenagers these days encounter. Fitting in, drugs, sex, homosexuality, psychological issues, suicide, you name it. A lot of readers seem to think that the author crammed too many issues together to fit into one little book, but it didn't feel that way to me. And it's true that the problems aren't given much depth, but it didn't bother me either. It didn't feel forced or too much; it felt just right and natural to me. This may be because I felt connected to Charlie as if it was me Charlie's talking to, as if I was that recipient of those honest heart-felt letters. There's something in his voice that grabbed my full attention; a voice tinged with such sadness that it broke my heart over and over.

I found Charlie to be a great character. I knew from the beginning that he's autistic, and that only added to how much I liked him and made him awesome by default to me. (I should mention that I have a strange liking for books told by an autistic character and I don't know why exactly that is.) The honesty in his letters allowed me to be close and connected to him and let me feel what he feels. Charlie's sensitive, he sees, he listens, he understands, he pays attention to things around him and sometimes gives those things too much thoughts that he ends up hurting himself. He suffers from the past that's haunting him, partly making him the way he is. But I found beauty in his being this way. A lot of times I just wish I could tell him that it's alright and give him the tightest hugs possible just so I could absorb some of his sadness and alleviate his pain.

The secret of Charlie's past, when it emerged, came as a huge blow to me. I didn't see it coming. I even missed it the first time; it only hit me when I re-read the last few pages. It rendered me completely speechless and I could only sit there and think about it and let the pieces fall together. The clues were all there, I just didn't look deep enough to think they would mean something. I asked my friends who have read this and 80% of them missed it and were shocked to learn the truth, so I guess this is just very subtly included in the story. Miss one negligible sentence and you can miss the whole thing. I'm not going to spell it out for you  and ruin the shock. I just want to say that after I learned about this, it made everything much clearer about Charlie. I truly felt sorry for him; he's in no way deserving of what's been done to him, and the person it made him become.

Besides Charlie, I really liked almost all the other characters too. Especially Patrick, Sam, and the English teacher Bill. Patrick and Sam really shine in all their crazy moments. And I love Bill for his attentiveness. They reach out to Charlie and let him in, and be his friends. I don't think Charlie can ask for friends better than them. They're lively characters with their own voices and I love all of them.

This book made me sad. In a good way. The good kind of sadness that makes me think about things. The kind that gives me teary eyes and a ghost of a smile that would tremble as the tears roll down. It didn't make me cry all the time, but it did when I read really good parts. This is what I love about this book. If I were to describe it in one word, "poignant" would be it. That, and also "beautiful."

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This review is also posted on Goodreads.

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