Monday, August 6, 2007

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
$11.20 at Amazon.com
ISBN: 0671027344
Wallflower is a novel about the life of Charlie, a mild-mannered fifteen year old boy. It runs the entire gamut of teen angst: drug use, suicide attempts, eating disorders, and most important of all: unrequited love.
Charlie is rightly called a wallflower by his friends. Our stories joins him when he's very child-like, and follows him through the traditional teenage drama until he's on his way to becoming a young man. The story is set in the early 1990s, my own high school years, as it happens. The rich, descriptive writing brought back memories of a lot of long forgotten travails from my own life.
Much of what happens to poor little Charlie, the most lovable protagonist I've ever encountered, is totally messed up: his older sister has a party during which he witnesses a date rape. His friends abandon him when he reveals he's nurturing a crush on his best friend's girlfriend.
In spite of all this, the story is surprisingly up-beat. Like every teenager, Charlie enjoys the indescribable ecstasy of romantic love. We also join him on his first exhilarating experience with marijuana, and a far less pleasant trip on more hardcore drugs.
Through much of the story he's in love with a senior girl named Sam. Sam simply adores him as a friend, but asks him to accept that friendship is all she's offering. The sweet agony of his longing struck a very familiar chord: for me it was a boy on the baseball team, but the effect is the same. Can you remember the first time you were obsessed with someone who didn't feel the same way about you?
There's lots of good stuff in here. What's amazing is that Charlie has devoted parents, a stable home, and a good school system; yet he finds himself getting sucked into all the serious troubles of adolescence just like everybody else. It's also remarkable that, even as he suffers through all these problems, you're still sure that the kid will be alright and will grow up to be a terrific guy.
I'm not much of a crier, but this novel actually got me a little misty eyed. Charlie's very emotional, and one can't help getting caught up in it. Even though he's heterosexual, his shyness and sensitivity make him a character gay boys and women can easily relate to.
This book is widely acclaimed, and is a great choice to provoke discussion with loved ones. Check it out!

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