Since I watched the film adaptation of this book, I've wished to read it. The film -  starring Logan Lerman as Charlie,  Emma Watson as Sam and Ezra Miller as Patrick - came out in 2012, while the book was published in 1999.  

It is usually categorized as YA fiction, but,  think of The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger or The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath!  The fact that they are coming of age novels with teenage protagonists doesn't make them books for teenage demographic. They can be read, loved and appreciated by an adult reading public as well. I'm not saying Chbosky’s debut novel ranks to those high literary standards, of course, but that it is possible for older readers to care, relate and enjoy while reading it.  I mentioned those two great novels - which I'm fond of - because The Perks of Being a Wallflower is easy to connect to them due to many reasons. While reading it, it's impossible not to hear echoes of  Holden Caufield's or Esther Greenwood's restless lives.

Charlie, the protagonist and the narrator of the story,  is a very shy,  introverted , melancholic freshman terrorized by his new school, new mates, new teachers.
Making friends has always been very difficult to him:  he is a wallflower watching life from aside.  
He writes letters to an imaginary friend and he confesses him much of his life experiences, thoughts, fears, dreams. He is haunted by very sad memories from his past, which become  even hallucinations from time to time.
He  makes some friends  at school among the older students:    a few of those damaged souls nobody wants as mates,  usually bullied or emarginated.  Sam and  Patrick become Charlie's best friends.
As the story flows, letter after letter,  gifting the reader  with tender moments, memorable quotes,  funny anecdotes and  final surprising twist,  we witness Charlie grow  until the final  moment of self-realization, when he finally feels himself infinite. 

I liked this book because it is touching and thought-provoking. I especially liked  Charlie and felt for him while reading,  as if he was a real person. His narrating voice is so spontaneous and involving, his complex personality  so  vividly cut out  by his often anaware revelations and naively wise words. Obviously, we must appreciate Mr Chbosky’s writing talent for that.

Honestly , there is much to learn from the hero of this book who is,  apparently, just an awkward teenager  . Charlie feels out of place wherever he goes, but still he is there and faces life, loves people and cares for them, even fights for them with kicks and fists. Although they do not always understand him,  he always understands much of them. Because he cares.

Like Holden Caufield, Charlie desperately looks  for someone to talk to,  who could fill in his sense of void . Like him,  Charlie longs to be loved and accepted. 
Like him Charlie reads much. 
His favourite teacher, Bill, gives him great books to read and offers him  important and very  personal life lessons. Like the one Charlie particularly treasure, when Bill said that  we are all desperate for love and sometimes we accept the love we think we deserve.  That explains to Charlie Sam's wrong choices, Patrick's crazy behaviour, but that also teaches him much of himself and of other people's he loves. When we do not have self-esteem enough, we risk to hurt ourselves with partners who don't really love us or that even mistreat us.
This is one of the main themes in the novel: Sam, Patrick and Charlie himself experience wrong relationships and are hurt by people they love.  

Being accepted and loved for what you are is what everyone deserves. Is Charlie lucky enough to find that kind of love? Well, we are sure that, in the end,  he gets to realize that what he deserves is a love like that. Charlie doesn’t surrender, fights his hidden demons and this is what he writes to his imaginary friend  at the end of the book:

“ 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”.

Isn’t he a very special little hero? 

In the novel, Charlie's English teacher, Bill,  assigns him books to read. Charlie describes them all as his favorites. Isn't it an incredibly good list?
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Peter and Wendy by J. M. Barrie
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  • The Stranger by Albert Camus
  • The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  • This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • A Separate Peace by John Knowles

    Read my previous post about the movie: AT THE CINEMA - YOUNG BEAUTIFUL 

1 comment:

Mystica said...

Thanks for the review. I have seen this book around but did not get around to reading about it.