The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of the quintessential books that defines the Young Adult genre. Written in 1999, it’s a timeless tale of what it’s like to go through puberty and struggle through high school. Through a series of letters (yet ANOTHER epistolary novel?! I’m on a ROLL) we experience the disorganized thoughts of a 15 year old boy as he experiences… well, more or less every first you get through puberty: sex, drugs, alcohol, social pressures, awkward family relationships, grief, homosexuality, parties… and all the terrible consequences of life: suicide, mental illness, drug abuse, abortion, fights, domestic abuse, sexual abuse… It’s everything but the kitchen sink thrown into 213 pages.
“And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”
As my friend Kara said, “It has everything but a dog dying and cancer.”
Unlike the previous two epistolary novels I’ve read in 2016, these letters are written by Charlie to a “friend”. This friend is not identified, and because of this, I felt like I was the friend Charlie was writing to. This really appealed to me. It made me feel like I was listening to a true story, and this story was something of which only Charlie and I knew every single detail. It was like a secret diary. I sometimes felt a bit embarrassed to be reading it, and honestly
“I put my head under my pillow, and let the quiet put things where they are supposed to be.”
Throughout this book, I never really understood Charlie. I was frustrated by his stilted writing style (is Charlie some form of Autistic? Or is this just an affect of his traumatic childhood?) and the way he tended to float through life. However, as flawed as these characters are, they are quite real depictions of people we encounter in our lives. And, in all honesty, I think it’s good that I never understood Charlie. No one understood him, not even Charlie understood Charlie, and since he is our narrator, there is no way for us to understand if he doesn’t understand himself. It was a seemingly convoluted way to explain the inability to identify who you are in puberty– but it was perfect.
“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.”
And, sadly, I could completely relate. No one knows who they are when they are 15. And no one should be expected to.
“I am interested and fascinated how everyone loves each other, but no one really likes each other.” – Charlie, on spending time with family
Not that I could relate to all the experiences Charlie went through. No. Those just gave me all the feels. But it was the fact that Charlie didn’t understand who he was or what he was supposed to do and it just looked like everyone else really had their shit together. Well, with a few noted exceptions he mentions. But, seriously. Charlie knew he wasn’t normal and had no idea how to even find “normal”.
“I would die for you. But I won’t live for you.”
“We accept the love we think we deserve.”
Also, the bibliophile in me really loved a lot about this. Charlie’s English teacher, Bill, keeps proving him tons of books to read. I have read shockingly few of them. Now 90% of them are on my TBR list (not that I’ll get to them anytime soon…). Also, this book contains a ton of great quotes. My roommate criticized me on the earmarks which I… sorta… accidentally… in a fit of reading-obsessed laziness, seemed to put on every page.
So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we 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.
Just be thankful there aren’t more quotes in this post.
“This moment will just be another story someday.”
All-in-all a great depiction of struggling with puberty and personal identity. If you haven’t read it, you should.