Length: 213 pages
Source: Won in a blog giveaway (thanks, Geoff!)
Charlie is a freshman.
And while he’s not the biggest geek in the 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 to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix 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. But he 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.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.
Here’s what I thought:
A lot of people really love this book. I wanted to love it too, but I ended up only liking it. I think part of the problem is that I read most of it in one day but had to finish it later, and so I lost the momentum of the reading experience and the ending fell flat for me. So, although I definitely recommend it, I would suggest reading it in one sitting.
The character of Charlie reminded me a lot of people I knew in high school. Funnily enough, the story takes place at the same time I actually was in high school–I would have been a sophomore when Charlie is a freshman. So a lot of the cultural references were very relevant for me. I also hung out with the kids who listened to alternative music and were a bit “different”, and I spent many an afternoon lying on my bed with The Smiths playing in the background and dreaming about my friend Daniel on whom I had a huge crush, and who also happened to be gay. We didn’t talk about it back then; it was just one of those things that everyone knew but no one said aloud.
The aspect of Charlie that I didn’t relate to as much was his childlike nature. He is innocent in so many ways, even as he experiences (I hesitate to say “participates in”, because it’s in a very passive way) a lot of grown-up situations and behavior. His friends obviously love this about him, but I couldn’t help but think it was a result of his damaged emotional state. He finds it difficult to express his own feelings, and it’s almost as if he is stuck in a time capsule, still playing the part of the little boy he was at seven years old.
Charlie is obviously very smart and sensitive, but it’s hard to see the real Charlie behind the people-pleasing wallflower. I finished the book hoping for him to break free of this persona and become an emotionally healthy, functioning adult. He obviously has a good support system in his friends, but at times he seems too dependent upon them for his happiness.
Would I have related more to this book if I had read it as a teenager? Probably, although I did appreciate the return to my own high school world of the early 90’s that the book presents. At any rate, I would recommend the book to anyone who appreciates good young adult literature and books with lgbt themes.
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