Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

From Amazon's product description: 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 haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

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.

Once I started this one I could not put it down. Chbosky took me right back to high school - the feelings of being left out, doing stupid things to fit in, having good friends but the relationships still being somewhat volatile. Egad, I wouldn't go through that again for a million dollars but for the afternoon and evening that I spent on the couch reading Charlie's letters, I was right there. He nailed it - even Rocky Horror Picture Show - I think I could recite every line by my senior year.

Charlie was both socially challenged and academically gifted which made me wonder about his mental health or perhaps an Asperger's type diagnosis, when the truth came out in the end, it all made sense. I knew the character at the heart of that conflict was going to be important in some way but I didn't guess why in advance. Apparently I was as blind as all the other people in Charlie's life.

Some of the friends Charlie makes are too good to be true. I know we're supposed to feel like Charlie found acceptance despite the odds against him but I think the oddds are even worse - I found it hard to believe he lucked into these healthy, healing relationships. My glass is half empty.

I can see why a parent might not want their tween to read this book but I think most high school students are surrounded by the characters of this story and will simply feel affirmed that everyone has their moments of insecurity. I'll have to send out a thank you to the parent who got this book banned from their child's high school - it brought the book to my attention and I loved it!


Beth F said...

Really nice review -- I like books that show the realism of a situation (even if his accepting friends might be a bit over the top). I just don't understand the banning of books at all.

Anonymous said...

This has been on my TBR list for a LONG time. I really need to buckle down and read it! Great review!

bermudaonion said...

Great review! You've made me want to read this book. I was oblivious to so much when I was in high school, but I watched a lot of the dynamics from the sidelines when my son was and it's not pretty.

Hazra said...

I've been intrigued by all the reviews of this book. I really need to sit down and read it soon.