Tuesday, March 26, 2013

the perks of being a wallflower

the perks of being a wallflower
stephen chbosky
demco books
published 1999

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.

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.

Another one of those books that I've been meaning to read, but just never got around to it until finally, now and I'm kicking myself for waiting so long!

Charlie is starting his first year in high school.  For every teenager this is an uncertain, exciting, terrifying time and Charlie chooses to deal with it by writing letters anonymously to a person he heard was a good person.  Does that make sense?  He overheard two girls talking about this guy who could have taken advantage of a (possibly) drunk/passed out girl, but he didn't.  Charlie decides that a person like that is someone he can tell all of his secrets to, confide in and that person will keep his secrets.

So he begins by explaining why he's writing and delves into life as a high schooler on the fringes of everything.  He has no friends after his one friend in middle school commits suicide so he starts out his freshman year alone, but not for long.  In an uncharacteristic burst of daring Charlie says hi to a senior in his woodshop class at a football game.  Patrick and the beautiful Sam immediately take Charlie in.  I think about what a wonderful world this would be if everyone was like Sam & Patrick.  Friends just because.  Taking a kid under their wing and truly taking the time to appreciate him.

I've read a few reviews about how Charlie doesn't sound like a 15/16 year old kid.  His speech, his writing is immature.  At first I agreed.  The speech seemed too young, like a 10 or 11 year old.  But then I thought back to my writing when I was in high school, especially when I first started writing and it was probably similar.  We're so used to books & TV shows & movies where the kids talk like the age the actors actually are and not how actual teenagers really talk or write.  Not everyone is Hemmingway.  But also, well, Charlie is immature. 

I wasn't quite expecting the end.  It felt out of left field at first, but then I realized that he was leading up to this revelation from the beginning.  He'd been leading us to this place of honesty and pain and it explained so much.

And now it's over.  I want to gather this book up and hold it inside me forever.

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