I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky recently. I’d been wanting to read it for quite a few years, but these days it’s rare for me to read a novel. My reading time is devoted to non-fiction and study! But I still knew I had to read Perks, and preferably soon. Perks is a coming-of-age novel about a Charlie, a fifteen year-old who starts to “participate” in life after befriending two seniors at his new high school. He is exposed to many new experiences, as well as books and music. Like many people, I felt that I could relate to Charlie. The blurb will explain why:
Charlie is a freshman. And while he’s not the biggest geek in school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. Charlie is attempting unchartered territory…Charlie can’t stay on the sideline forever. 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.
I thought that I’d be reading a book about myself! Charlie sounds like high-school-me, after all. I thought I’d gain some sort of insight about who I am, somehow. I want to learn more about myself as much as the next guy. But although the novel covered many common teenage issues, upon reading it I don’t think Charlie’s experiences could be considered commonplace, even among “wallflowers”. It turned out that Charlie and I are not the same person, although I did enjoyed his perspective, and could still relate to some of his introspection.
It’s hard not to like Charlie — he’s a sweet guy, if naïve, and perhaps juvenile at times. Some reviewers online were convinced for a while that Charlie was autistic. He isn’t, but he does have emotional and social problems, this much is true. If I do too, they’re certainly not the same or externalised in the same way.
It also turns out that Perks is very quotable. I don’t want to repeat the lines here because I feel like some of them must be cliché online by now! From what I’ve heard anyway, they show up on tumblr pasted over random images. Still, it’s not often that I stop and realise I just read a great line and decide I need to keep it in my memory bank.
The best part of the experience was that I…I think it made me feel Feelings? Well, maybe. The reveal in the last couple of letters was almost, as it put on the back of the book, “deeply affecting”. The ending is sombre, yet optimistic? At the start of the book, Charlie feels “both happy and sad”, and I ended it feeling almost the same way.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower really resonated with me, for some reason. Some books (and movies), you think are great, but forget them almost straight away. Sometimes you don’t realise how good they are until you keep thinking about them.
There’s a film adaptation coming out soon! Actually, there isn’t a release date for Australia (yet?), which is like, excuse me, film distributor or whatever, I want to see this. I wasn’t sure how well a film adaptation would work, considering the format of the book. A novel written as a series of letters, wherein Charlie very often discusses his feelings and background information about why characters are they way they are, might not translate to the big screen. However! The film was both written and directed by Chbosky himself, and I feel good about this.The trailer indicates there might be at least some narration? Well, here’s the trailer:
And it looks at least vaguely promising. But it seems a bit “generic high school movie”. And considering the mature themes in the novel, the classification seems lower than you might expect.