Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

I saw the movie, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, without having read the book or, even, to be truthful, having known it was a book first.  That's not so typical for me, so I say it with a small amount of embarrassment, but there it is.  I've had a bit of conflicted feelings about picking up the book for some reason I can't really identify, as I liked the movie alright.  I'd put a hold on it and gotten it from the library nearly three weeks ago and there's it's sat, waiting.  I can say with some precision that it was nearly three weeks ago because I just got a notice about it being due.  And it won't renew.  So, after finishing The Sudden Appearance of Hope last night, I dove right in.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is, as the blurbs about it will tell you, a story in the tradition of The Catcher in the Rye.  Perhaps this is part of what turned me off of picking it up.  I'm not a Holden fan.  I found The Catcher in the Rye to be more depressing than anything else.  Anyway, our main character here is Charlie, although that may not be his real name, as the story is told in letters to a person who "seems nice" with, as Charlie says in the first letter, pseudonyms.  Likely you know the gist of the story having seen the movie, although I didn't realize (or maybe remember) that the story was told in letters from the movie.  So, as a quick overview, Charlie is an high school freshman who makes friends with a group of seniors and makes an effort to participate in high school.  He has many issues ranging from a friend who committed suicide to family issues.  This kid has a lot thrown at him and has some psychological issues on top of that.

It turns out that I liked the book.  I felt for Charlie and was very interested in his story in ways that never happened for me with Holden.  The book is laced with musical and literary references, which sometimes I like and other times makes me think the author is trying too hard.  I felt a little bit of both in this case.  While its certainly well known enough not to need my recommendation, I would recommend it for a variety of reasons - it is enough like The Catcher in the Rye that if you liked it, you might like this, as well.  There's a whole story line about getting caught up in a relationship where you aren't being yourself and aren't happy, but feel the need to keep pretending that made me want to give it to someone I know who would identify with that.  Also, I'd recommend it to others trying to understand that sort of relationship, as it gives insight into why Charlie ends up in that position.

If you've just been waiting for a push to read it, consider this the push.  It was not my favorite book by far, but it was a good and interesting read.

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