Monday, November 19, 2012
A Review of 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' by Stephen Chbosky
I swear, the description doesn't do this book any justice. It sounds just like any other YA novel, and to a certain degree, it is, but it's been a while since I've read a story so relate-able as Charlie's story. A story that is told so eloquently.
Charlie begins to write letters to an unknown recipient starting from the time a few weeks before the first day of his freshman year of high school and ending when his senior friends graduate and move away from home. I don't know who the recipient is and I'm not sure if it's important if we know in the first place. I've been wracking my brains since I finished the book, and I can't think of who it might be. I don't think it would be Bill, because Charlie talks to Bill anyway. For a while, I thought it might be Bill's girlfriend whom Charlie was writing to, but since she lives with Bill, she might hear about what Bill and Charlie talk about, so I kind of dis-included her in my list of options. Any way, I don't think that it's that important who Charlie is writing to, it's just important that he is writing to someone. Even if that someone doesn't really know who he is.
The characters in this story were so great. They felt human to me, even in a surreal way at times. When Sam climbs into the back of the truck and stands up in the tunnel. When Charlie is watching Sam play Magenta in The Rocky Horror Picture Show each month. I think that's just the way Charlie writes. His style is kind of dreamy in that the things he says don't always seem real and when they are undoubtedly real (you know, for fiction), the style is wispy and at times a bit off-handed. It's a little hard to describe. If you've read this book, perhaps you know what I'm talking about and can help me be a little more articulate about it.
When Charlie talks about Sam, time seems to slow down and I think that's why his writing style is so dreamy at times and like a typical teenager other times. It just further shows how much he loves her. And he doesn't even have to say it out loud for us to know. That's my second and final attempt at being articulate about this.
I thought it was really cool that Charlie had such a cool English teacher who would challenge him by giving him piles of other books and having him write papers on them. What I find to be even more cool is that fact that his teacher, whom he is told to call 'Bill,' was only planning to be a teacher for a year or two before embarking on the difficult path to becoming a recognized writer or moving onto another profession. But after the year with Charlie as his student, he decided to remain. This is slightly aggravating and mostly awe-inspiring. It is aggravating because why would you become a teacher if you only mean for it to be a short-term plan? I mean, what's the point? I feel like it would be harder to enjoy your time because you'd have a sort of count down in your head when things are going wrong. Likewise, you'd be counting down when things are going well and then you'd be sad that your time is so limited. Teaching is such a wonderful (and challenging) profession and to know that mere students (kind of the lifeblood of the profession... just kind of) can change the mind of someone who would initially rather do something else. That's probably not what I was "supposed" to get out of this book, but that's one of the things I've taken with me.
I equally liked and hated some of the underlying issues in this book. When I say 'liked,' I don't mean enjoyed. I mean that I'm glad that they're in the book because it sheds light on such serious subjects like rape, depression, supreme grief, etc. Chbosky doesn't down-play the things that are happening, but he doesn't turn the book into a public service announcement and have the book center around those things, which would be very easy to do.
Overall, I really, really liked this book. This is something that is going to be on my shelf for a long, long time. It is not trivial and it takes life with all of its imperfections and highs and embraces each and every aspect of it.
I can't wait to see the movie now. I've heard that Chbosky also wrote the screenplay.
I give 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower':
P.S. I have several reviews brewing at the moment. I haven't really had a lot of time to sit down and write these, so I'm glad I at least have this one to give you today. Hopefully I'll get a lot of reading done over Thanksgiving Break!