Sunday, March 16, 2014

Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephan Chbosky

Title: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Author: Stephan Chbosky
Series: No.
Pages: 213 
Genre: Young Adult. Epistolary.
Published Date: February 1, 1999
Publisher: MTV Books/Pocket Books
Rating: ☕☕☕☕☕
Summary: Goodreads

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.

My Thoughts:

Oh, how can I explain the many feels that practically ripped my heart into pieces? This book was beautiful, real, and insightful. I loved... almost all the characters. Those who have read this book know a few --who shall remain nameless in this section of the review-- that just make you want to slap them with the book. But alas, that's not possible.

One thing I really enjoyed about this book was how many great quotes where in it. A lot of the quotes I was drawn to felt very relatable to myself and I could appreciate them a whole lot more. A lot of the problems Charlie has to face are things most of us have, or will eventually, experience in our lifetimes. They're not uncommon. Friendship, love, and self-understanding are all things every single person in the world has to go through at one point, but personally, I was intrigued with how Charlie handled his situations.  From pretty much the first letter I fell in love with him, his sweet and caring disposition just made me wish I could hug him. 

I believe Chbosky created a wonderful piece of literature and some beguiling characters. The entire time I was either smiling or crying or seething with mild irritation. I don't think I ever really felt bored while I was reading, although the book was kind of a slow read, but not a bad slow. I really do love this book and I'm sad it's over, but I'm sure it won't be very long until I pick it up again.

(Do NOT read unless you've read the book!!)

I'm not sure I can express in quite the right words how much this book has affected me. I can't stop thinking about it even after I put it down. There were so many things to think about within this story. Charlie is what drew me in first. He starts off his first letter with, "Dear friend, I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn't try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have." In my mind, that was an odd beginning to a letter, specifically to someone that he apparently doesn't even really know? I was left to assume the the letters were sent to myself, as if I were getting them in the mail as I read each one and that made me feel a lot closer to the story than I would have expected. It didn't take me long to realize how secluded Charlie was the majority of the time, and it made me sad, because he preferred the company of others. Another thing that didn't take me very long to realize was how sensitive he is. Charlie's thought process amazed me. It seemed like he hardly ever thought about himself when he could help it. Probably would be a prodigy in abnegation if he lived in that universe. No matter how he felt, whenever someone near him was in a bad mood or having a difficult day, seeing the other person unhappy would make Charlie upset. A great example of this, in my opinion, is his relationship with Mary Elizabeth. I'm not sure if Charlie ever once had actual 'feelings' for the girl and as they dated it seemed as though he started disliking her more and more as time passed. Or there's Patrick even. After that big fight with Brad in the school cafeteria, and every night he would kiss Charlie as some kind of pain soother, Sam asked Charlie why he let Patrick do it and all he said was, "I was just trying to be a friend" like his feelings were never factored into the equation. There were sometimes however, when I felt like he just over-analyzed things way too much. Like with his math homework.

I was happy when Patrick and Sam were around. Even though it broke my heart while Charlie was fighting with his feelings for Sam; I believe they were very beneficial to helping Charlie. Well... almost. They did A LOT of drugs and alcohol that year. But I loved how they never got caught with it, even when Charlie ended up going to the hospital on that snowy new years night. Even so, it is impossible to deny, after having read the whole story, that the pair definitely left a hugely positive mark on Charlie's life. They kept him grounded, they gave him hope, and a purpose for living. I'm not saying he didn't love his family, nor am I saying his family didn't love him, but they certainly didn't understand him enough to be able to help until the end. With his father's distance, his mother's quietness, his brother's absence, and his sister's bitchiness, no one ever really tries to understand or even deal with Charlie a majority of the time. That was something that irritated me about his family more than anything. They could be so cold but then so kind too. It got a smidge confusing. But Sam and Patrick were able to connect with Charlie in a way that nobody else was able and I think that's what helped him in the end. 

Now, I need to take a moment to talk about Aunt Helen. I'll just start from the beginning. Charlie only ever talks about how much he cared about his Aunt. How she was his favorite person in the world and how she made him feel extra special because she gave him two presents on his birthday instead of one. At first she seemed like a nice woman and for Charlie's sake I was sorry when I found out that she had died. I also felt bad for her when I found out the 'bad thing' that happened. But does that bad thing really give her any excuse when she turns around.... and does the same friggin' thing to her own nephew!? Her sister's baby boy, every weekend when they would go out on those date nights, while living under their house for supportive reasons. In an instant Aunt Helen, in my opinion, lost all credibility. But of course, Charlie has to step in a second later and make me think about who's really to blame. Aunt Helen? Her dad? The family friend? It's really all too complicated a situation that has no happy side to it in the end. The ending of the book, however, had me crying many tears of joy. I loved how I could really tell the change his time in the hospital had over him. The positive effect his realization gave to him. Obviously, he's not 100% okay. It's possible that he may still end up having some bad days, but his outlook on life is much less gloomy. He sums it up very well in one of my favorite quotes saying, "So, if this does end up being my last letter, please believe that things are good with me, and even when they're not, they will be soon enough." Brilliant.

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