Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen ChboskyShy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie is attempting to navigate through the uncharted territory of high school. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends.

The world of sex, drugs, and music – when all one requires to feel infinite is that perfect song on that perfect drive. Standing on the fringes of life Charlie has a unique perspective of the world around him, but there comes a time to stop being a wallflower and see what it looks like from the dance floor.

This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion has become a modern classic. Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating and through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up.

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Review

I’m about to hit full flu territory, I can feel it coming on, so I’m attempting to write up my thoughts on The Perks of Being a Wallflower before my thoughts turn to the oddest ideas and I make no sense. In saying that… some of this review may make no sense, but luckily I’ll be re-reading it for book club so maybe I could update the review if that’s the case. Maybe.

I’m not really sure what to make of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I consider it to be a sad story, but on the other hand it could be considered a sad story with inspiration. It’s not exactly overly maudlin or so depressing you want to jump off a bridge after reading it, it’s more melancholy causing when you consider just how lonely and disconnected this kid is. In the sense of inspirational reading, I guess you could say it is so because you get to follow a year in the life of this kid dealing with his loneliness and disconnection, only to find a happier place throughout and at the end.

Personally I didn’t find it inspiring for several reasons. The main one was lack of connection with the character. It’s not that I couldn’t relate as I’ve been very disconnected throughout my life, suffered anxiety, obsessive and disordered thoughts, and depression (I’m being treated for all of them right now actually so I get it), I just could not connect with the main character Charlie. I really, really wanted to, but I couldn’t. For the majority of the story I couldn’t stop thinking about why Charlie was so sheltered at the age of fifteen. I would have to keep reminding myself in the beginning that this kid wasn’t ten years old. I don’t think there’s much of anything to explain why Charlie is sheltered like this, apart from his family never talking about certain subjects, but I don’t believe that as being a credible main reason for ignorance.

I think Charlie has a voice, but it’s muddled and perhaps this is a good thing given the age it is written for and adolescents are mostly trying to discover themselves, which is basically what Perks is all about; discovering oneself, discovering the world, connecting, and growing. The funny thing is though, I watched the movie before reading the book and I found I connected far more with movie version Charlie than original Charlie. Even with more detail in the book and more emotion expressed. Go figure.

The writing was interesting, but difficult to get into at first. I liked the idea of Charlie writing to a complete stranger and I found it inspiring for my own writing. I think the writing style and the way Charlie expresses himself throughout Perks shows the deep-seated issues that he is not expressing. I believe this is what kept me reading. I was curious to read something I felt was close to home in a sense, but far enough away for me to be able to distance myself. It’s fascinating being able to make connections between the lines.

I’m still not sure what I make of Perks, but I realise it’s a story with it’s own merits and perhaps I’m too far in my life journey for the story to make a full impact. Either that, or the movie was just too awesome and spoiled me for the book. Who knows!

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