4.5 / 5
I read this on the train to London and Haywards Heath, and the return journey back to Leicester. I got utterly engrossed in Charlie’s thoughts that he put to paper. I felt somewhat of a connection to Charlie, maybe there is a little part of me that is similar to him, or maybe Chbosky has just brought out thoughts in our heads which we keep to ourselves rather say aloud? The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deep, though-provoking and personal novel which introduces a myriad of issues, but at the centre of it all is a teenage boy who is trying his best to participate, be normal and to make friends despite his oddities and emotional issues. This is a book that teenagers should definitely read, and has become somewhat of a contemporary classic.
The format of letters to an unknown ‘friend’, or as I interpreted it, the reader myself, was a unique way to structure the story, but it was a thoroughly successful one. Charlie’s thoughts and feelings which he poured into these letters throughout the school year helped to create a vivid picture of who he is, the way he thinks about various situations and people, and the composition of friend groups, school life and family life.
I wholeheartedly got sucked into Charlie’s life and problems, though his crying did become a bit niggling for me as a reader as it disrupted the flow somewhat from the incoming action. Having seen the film already, I think that is perhaps the main advantage over the book, the lack of crying from Charlie, except for moments of importance.
I’m sure many of you have already read the book, seen the film or heard about Perks in some manner, so I won’t go into great detail about the story at risk of boring you all.
The book is well known for it’s deep and insightful phrases which have seen these phrases become popular among teenagers. These extremely quoteworthy phrases that are Charlie’s commentaries on life, current emotions and people are wonderful quotes which conjure a plethora of different emotions from sadness, to spine-tingling joy. Chbosky encapsulates these emotions perfectly in these quotes below:
“We accept the love we think we deserve.”
“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”
“And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”
But the one which I found that struck a chord with me and got me a bit teary on the train was when Charlie went to Bill and his girlfriend’s place for dinner, and Bill came out with this:
“I just want you to know that you’re very special… and the only reason I’m telling you is that I don’t know if anyone else ever has.”
It was an incredible thing to say to Charlie, and most likely true as well. No doubt Charlie’s psychiatrists say that he is special, but not in the same way Bill said it to Charlie. It truly meant it and he is the first adult to see Charlie for who he is, a boy who is obviously intelligent but lacks the confidence and understanding of social situations.
Perks is a fascinating novel which has just enough ambiguity to ensure that every reader has a slightly different reading experience. The readers are plunged into the lives of Charlie, his family and his friends during Charlie’s hectic and emotional-roller-coaster school year.
Published | 1999
Goodreads | 4.2