Thursday, July 4, 2013
The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky
Published: February 1999 by MTV Books
Source: I read my daughter's copy of the book
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.
a : a person who from shyness or unpopularity remains on the sidelines of a social activity (as a dance)
b : a shy or reserved person
Fifteen-year-old Charlie is just beginning his freshman year of high school, a month after the suicide of his best friend, when he begins writing letters to an anonymous person, one he doesn't really know. Charlie is an extremely intelligent but extremely troubled young man who appears to suffer from schizophrenia, although that is never stated. Charlie is not close to his parents, brother or sister although he would like to be; they don't seem to understand him. When two seniors befriend Charlie and a teacher takes a special interest in him, Charlie is encouraged to begin experiencing life.
The Perks of Being A Wallflower is extremely popular with young people for having the courage to address very heavy subjects (molestation, sex, drug and alcohol use, rape) through the eyes of a teenager. By addressing these issue through an emotionally naive Charlie, Chobsky is able to look at these issues from a teenagers point of view in an unusual light. While Charlie observes things, he doesn't, as his friend Patrick says of him at one point "understand things."
This slim novel attempts to deal with a great many subjects, perhaps too many. And, to be honest, sometimes Charlie's voice really got on my nerves; it very often felt like he was much younger. Still, my heart often ached for Charlie and his friends. I understand why so many people love this book. It speaks to young people in a way that few books do, about subjects so many people try to shield them from when they are, every day, surrounded by them.