“It’s much easier not to know things sometimes.”
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.
This is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed 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.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of those books that’s been sitting on my shelves for years. I’ve been hesitant starting this one, because even before I got my copy I already have a lot of expectations from this book. Being branded as “powerful and deeply affecting coming-of-age story” I expected this book to move me after I’m done reading. But based on experience high-expectation doesn’t always serves me right in reading. Most of the times it ruins my reading experience, so I know I need to extract those expectations first in order to fairly experience this book. So, after few years and with the film adaptation coming out, I finally decided to dive in.
The story is presented in letter format written by the main character, Charlie to an anonymous friend. This friend is someone readers never get to know except that he/she is older than Charlie and in fact an adult. I actually tried to be clever, working out who the mysterious friend is but obviously I failed. Stephen Chbosky didn’t confirm who is the recipient of Charlie’s letters. Anyway, back to Charlie, his letters consist of everyday experiences during his freshmen year in high school which he start writing after his best friend, Micheal commits suicide. In there he talks about his nervousness in starting school, his lack of friends, his extra homework from his English teacher, his crushes, his family and anything he feels writing. Through his letters, we get to know Charlie as a shy, sweet, polite teenager but highly sensitive and socially awkward. It easy to see how detached he is by the way he tell his stories. Being different as he is, he tried to ‘participate’ in life and tried to understand other people around him. He gain friends and life experiences. He deals with many different issues that later pushed him to recognized and accepts changes in his own life and understand other people around him.
“We accept the love we think we deserve.”
As a character, Charlie is simply endearing especially when he is so naive. Even I can’t relate much with him, I still understand his struggles and pains in growing up. The way he tells his story through each letter has personal touch that makes it easy to see the world in his eyes. Even his voice is a bit detached, it is still easy to feel each and every emotions he went through. The feeling of isolation and trying to blend in to everyone around him is so raw and real, that I want Charlie to finally find where he really belongs. I want him fit in, find friends who will accept him for who he is and understand his struggles. And more than anything else, I want to see him live and be his own person.
Even with so much sensitive themes like drugs, cigarettes, homosexuality, rape, violence, suicide and abortion, the story never felt too much to read. As if all those things can really happen around to one teenager like Charlie. Everything that happened to him and around him, contribute to what & who he is now. But in the end, what really stands out were not those heavy & heart wrenching events but Charlie. Charlie with his sweet innocence and wisdom makes this book plausible.
The big twist in the end is something I didn’t expect. It is briefly describe in the book but the impact is nevertheless powerful. I’m not sure how other teenager will handle that but I like that Charlie is so hopeful in his situation after the revelation. I like that he didn’t blame anyone, not even the person who I think should be blame. His logic and reasoning simply bemuse me.
“It’s like if I blamed my aunt Helen, I would have to blame her dad for hitting her and the friend of the family that fooled around with her when she was little. And the person that fooled around with him. And God for not stopping all this and things that are much worse. And I did do that for a while, but then I just couldn’t anymore. Because it wasn’t going anywhere. Because it wasn’t the point.”
Just like the story told by Charlie’s doctor about the two brothers whose dad was a bad alcoholic, where one brother become successful & never drank and the other brother end up like dad who drinks a lot, it’s all about choices. Our choice sets us different from other people. Like Charlie we have a choice, a choice to move on with our life or to just stay in our past and consume ourselves with old ghost. Maybe we can’t choose to change the past but we can choose our future.
“So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.”
Somehow this book reminds me of my own high school life. Charlie and I may not have the same path of growing up, nor the same experiences but he still reminds me of what it is like to be a teenager. At some point while reading I missed my best friend and I remember some of my teachers and mentors. I also smiles reminiscing parties, dates and other high school experiences. Charlie’s experiences isn’t that far from everyone’s experiences, his struggles, pain and confusions is something we all went through one moment in our life.
Through The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky perfectly captures the high and lows of growing up. It is not particularly life changing as I’d expect it to be but nevertheless it is thought-provoking and genuinely great read. A raw and gripping story that has a timeless quality in it. With Charlie’s charming innocence you will want to find your own life experiences that will make you feel infinite and make you want to choose your own path in life.