I have concluded that I am not made for staying in bed all day with nothing to do except taking the occasional nap. So to alleviate my colossal boredom, I have decided to post my review for Stephen Chbosky's heartbreaking novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
This is not a new book by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it's nearly a decade old. I read it back when I was in high school because my friend, Peter, would not stop talking about how amazing it was. And guess what? He was right. Of all the 700+ books that I have read in my life (yes, sadly, I have made a list), this one sticks out.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of those books you can pick up at any moment of your life and find a quote that pertains to it. It is the devastatingly beautiful story of Charlie, a misfit, during his first year of high school. It follows him as he learns about family, sex, friends, love, drugs, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and mix tapes that make your world seem infinite. The story is written in epistolary form to a reader who's name we never find out. His letters range from hilarious to sentimental to downright dolorous. Chbosky welds the language to portray not what it's like to be a teenager, but what it's like to be human. Through Charlie's eyes, we see the world full of it's beauty as well as all of it's unpleasantness. It is impossible not to be struck by Charlie's observations. Chbosky is able to put into words those indescribable moments that take you're breath away.
There is absolutely nothing I dislike about this book, so for this review everything will just be under the category of "Things I love." From here on in, my review has some spoilers, but the book is written in such a manner that reading quotes really doesn't spoil the book in the least bit. In fact, it was due to my reading some of the quotes from Peter's copy, back in the day, that made me want to pick up the book. Enjoy!
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Part I
- The book opens in 1991, when Charlie writes a letter to some unknown person who "didn't try to sleep with that person at that party" even though they could have. He tells us that he will call people by different names, so as to reserve his anonymity. I like that he opens the book like this because it gives us a hint as to the moral center of Charlie. I also, personally, believe that he is writing to another male, which is interesting in itself.
- One of my favorite passages:
So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I'm still trying to figure out how that could be.
How true. Aren't we all just trying to figure it out? Trying to sort the good from the bad. Hoping that the good will outweigh everything else? In the words of Forest Gump, "Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."
- From the very first letter, Charlie is straightforward. He tells us about his family, his friend Michael, and his Aunt Helen. I love how blunt he is about his fears of starting a new phase in his life - a theme, I'm sure, everyone can relate to, be it high school or marriage.
- When referring to Susan, a friend of his in middle school, Charlie writes:
Now, she acts a lot dumber in the hallways, especially when boys are around. And I think it's sad because Susan doesn't look as happy.
I know a lot of people who are like this. People who pretend to be dumber than they are, so as to fit in. This isn't just a high school thing. It's a life habit for some. I, too, think it's sad because they really don't look happy.
- I adore that Charlie's a reader. I also find that once I finish a book it "is now my favorite book of all time, but then again, I always think that until I read another book." Moreover, I love Charlie's English teacher, Bill. He reminds me of my English professor in high school, which was the single most significant teacher I ever had. I really hope that everyone has at least one "Bill" in their life because it truly changes everything. At least it did for me.
- There's a passage in one of the first few letters where Charlie talks about how mean his sister is to her boyfriend, how he never fights her on it, until one day he does and how that makes sense. I don't know why I've always loved that passage, but I just think that everyone should stand up to their bullies. Even if it's someone you love. However, this isn't to say that being physical is in any way correct. He also mentions The Smiths in this letter, which is one of my all time favorite bands.
- When we are introduced to Patrick and Sam, Charlie writes:
The nice thing about the Big Boy was the fact that Patrick and Sam didn't just throw around inside jokes and make me struggle to keep up. Not at all. They asked me questions.
Personally, I am a big questions person. I love finding out about people and I hate going places were people are "best friends" and you feel extremely excluded. I think the nicest times are when people are brought together, not pushed further apart.
- Hilarious Charlie quote:
I thought that in those movies and television shows when they talk about having a coffee break that they should have a masturbation break. But then again, I think this would decrease productivity. I'm only being cute here. I don't really mean it. I just wanted to make you smile. I meant the "wow" though.
- There are a few extremely significant quotes/passages in this book and this is one of them:
"Do you always think this much, Charlie?"
"Is that bad?" I just wanted someone to tell me the truth.
"Not necessarily. It's just that sometimes people use thought to not participate in life."
"Is that bad?"
Bill smiled and continued asking me questions. Slowly, he got to "problems at home." And I told him about the boy who makes mix tapes hitting my sister because my sister only told me not to tell mom or dad about it, so I figured I could tell Bill. He got this very serious look on his face after I told him, and he said something to me I don't think I will forget this semester or ever.
"Charlie, we accept the love we think we deserve."
There has never been a truer statement about love. Period. There is also no truer statement about thoughts being used in order to postpone living.
-Another incredibly meaningful quote quickly followed this passage. When Charlie talks to his father about his sister's boyfriend problem, he tells his son:
"Not everyone has a sob story, Charlie, and even if they do, it's no excuse."
Wow. So very very true. A lot of people (especially as you grow older) make up excuses for their problems. I think it's a terrible dishonor to themselves when people hide from the realities of their life and pawn off their current situations to things that really have no fault in the matter. It really is a discredit to who they are as individuals. Unfortunately, it is done on a daily basis. I think half the reason the world is in the shape it's in is because people blame others for trials of their own making.
- At last we have arrived at the passage that has touched people so deeply that some even have it tattooed on their bodies:
Anyway, Patrick started driving really fast, and just before we got into the tunnel, Sam stood up, and the wind turned her dress into ocean waves. When we hit the tunnel, all the sound got scooped up into a vacuum, and it was replaced by a song on the tape player. A beautiful song called "Landslide." When we got out of the tunnel, Sam screamed this really fun scream, and there it was. Downtown. Lights on buildings and everything that makes you wonder. Sam sat down and started laughing. Patrick started laughing. I started laughing.
And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.
Click to watch video!
Perfection. In a few simple sentences, Chbosky has put into words those indescribable moments that happen to play in your mind forever.
I will try post Part II of The Perks of Being a Wallflower tomorrow along with the play list.