This will be my last book and book review for 2013. I definitely don’t have time to read and review another one, and I’m already looking forward to Cannonball Read 6 and the books I’ll be reading next year.
“I just wish that God or my parents or Sam or my sister or someone would just tell me what’s wrong with me. Just tell me how to be different in a way that makes sense. To make this all go away. And disappear. I know that’s wrong because it’s my responsibility, and I know that things get worse before they get better because that’s what my psychiatrist says, but this is a worse that feels too big.” (139)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999) by Stephen Chbosky was a book I would not have read if it weren’t for my new book club. I saw the movie, which was all right, but I was distracted by Hermione and I didn’t love it. I also rarely read a book after having seen the movie. The visuals from the movie are too strong and interfere with my imagination. But it’s a short book, so I figured I could suck it up for my friends. And I liked it! Much more than the movie. Charlie’s insight and inner thoughts came across much more clearly for me in writing than on the screen. Not that the movie did a bad job, it just has its limits. I still wish I’d read the book before seeing the movie, but I’m glad I read it.
Or another title could be How I Handed Carol Rifka Brunt’s Ass To Her. THIS is how you write a teenage protagonist who is going through some shit. Read the full review here
Cannonball Read V: Book #3/52
Genre: Young Adult
I’ve had this book on my to-read list for a long time. I’d heard it was good, but the plot seemed somewhat boring and I was slightly turned off by the fact that MTV published it (MTV publishes books?). However, after being bombarded with previews for the movie version, I decided it didn’t look too bad and I always prefer to read the book before I see the movie.
So, The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows a “wallflower” named Charlie who is just starting high school after his best friend committed suicide the previous year. Then he meets a pair of senior step-siblings (Sam and Patrick) who sort of take Charlie under their wing. The story unfolds through letters that Charlie writes to an anonymous penpal.
Read the rest in my blog.
I really wanted to like this book. I kind of did at first. Lots of quirky characters, a dysfunctional family and a loving lit teacher. But throughout the book, Charlie (our wallflower) just did not seem to exhibit any kind of growth, and it began to frustrate me. Like I was cheering for the kid, and he just could not get his shit together.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, for those who haven’t read it or seen the recent movie, is a series of letters written to an anonymous friend by our boy Charlie about his life as a 15 year old starting high school. Charlie experiences a lot of anxiety — some of it seems justified, some of it made me want to shake him a little bit — and has trouble connecting to his peers and family. He cries a lot. He’s very smart, but struggles with school. He makes mix tapes. Then he meets up with some other social outcasts and begins to explore of world of sex, drugs and the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
My issue was this: once Charlie meets these kids, nothing really changes. He starts smoking, sure. But he doesn’t seem to be able to handle things any better. He doesn’t understand people or himself any better. He still cries A LOT. About 3/4 of the way through, I started wondering, “What’s the point?”.
A lot of people have made a big deal about the big reveal at the end, which I won’t spoil for you here. I certainly didn’t see it coming. But while it explained some things about Charlie’s personality, it didn’t explain *enough* and came too late to really make a difference for me as a reader. Overall, I felt simply frustrated at the end.
Perks is a weird little book. It’s written as a series of letters from lead character Charlie, a quirky and potentially clinically depressed freshman who shortly into the school year befriends a group of decidedly cooler seniors, including brother-sister duo Patrick and Sam, the former openly gay (which, in a My So-Called Life sort of way, appears to be simultaneously brave and routine at their high school) and the latter the immediate object of Charlie’s bumbling affections. Over the course of the school year, Charlie experiences a series of teenage rites of passage: His first party, his first hookup, his first pot brownie, etc. In some situations, Charlie’s mildly autistic inability to read social cues comes across as endearing, while at other moments—such as when, during a game of truth or dare, he’s dared to kiss the prettiest girl in the room and goes for Sam instead of his girlfriend—Charlie fails miserably at being what every 15-year-old really wants to be in high school: at least normal enough to fit in with a group of friends. Continue reading