Monday, July 15, 2013

The Library - YA Contemporary Review "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky

Title:  The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Author: Stephen Chbosky
Publisher:  MTV Books & Pocket Books
Publication Date: February 1, 1999
Genre:  YA Contemporary

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Synopsis from 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 year 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 sidelines 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...
Normally this is a book that I would read and not review, but for some reason I feel compelled to write up something really quick.  I bought this book quite some time ago.  I want to say that I bought it when the movie came out because I wanted to read it first and I did!  I don't see a lot of movies in the theater, especially movies like this (I am more of an action/thriller girl) so I had plenty of time to read this while I waited for it to come out on DVD.  I am SO glad I read the book first. Not only was the book WAY better, I felt like I had more a sense of what was going on in the movie since I had read the book.

This whole entire book is a series of letters written by Charlie.  Charlie is getting ready to start High School, he's a loner whose only friend committed suicide at the end of their 8th grade year.  It's never made clear who Charlie is writing the letters to other than a hint that it's someone that knows a friend.  He is, however, clear that this person doesn't know him personally and isn't from the town he lives in.  The letters span the year that Charlie is in 9th grade which happens to be 1991-1992.  I also was intrigued by the story because this happens to be the year that I was a Senior in High School.

Basically the story goes like this...Charlie is a loner, the boy with no friends who is considered a bit of a freak.  He ends up making friends, at a football game, with a boy in his shop class who happens to be a senior.  Through Patrick he meets Sam and falls in love immediately but she tells him right off that he can't think of her that way.  This of course, doesn't stop him from thinking about her constantly.  He falls in to their group pretty quickly and while he does interact some, he is one that sits back and kind of takes in everything around him....hence the reference to him being a wallflower.  

My favorite interactions in the book are the ones with Bill, his English teacher.  Bill has realized Charlies potential and throughout the course of the story is pushing him to be better.  He is giving him extra reading and work to do, but he is also trying to encourage him to become a part of the group and to experience things instead of just watching others have those experiences.

There really is a ton I could write about this tiny little book!  I know that it's a coming of age type story, but when I read this I realize how sheltered I was throughout my high school years.  I can't imagine doing even half the stuff Charlie and his friends did at that age, but I know that it's very common.  Charlie is not only dealing with the normal teen stuff, he is also experiencing periods where he blacks out.  Eventually he discovers the root of this problem and it's dealt with accordingly.

There were SO many good things in the book that were left out of the movie. I know that they can't put everything in a book in a movie version of it, it's a shame that some of these things weren't even touched on. There are moments between Charlie and his sister that were very touching and so real.  All in all I really enjoyed the book and the movie didn't live up to it. 

If you haven't read the book, I highly recommend it.  I know it's considered YA, but it's not one that I would hand off to my almost 14 year old daughter to read, even though she informed me that kids in her class were reading it last year.  There are some themes covered here that I just don't know if she would be ready for. Patrick is gay and that is discussed quite openly and in some detail, there is also quite a lot of drinking and drug use and references to sex and masturbation.  I would recommend reading it before letting your teenager read it.  I know that everyone has different standards for what we let our kids read and while this is considered a kids "rite of passage" type book it's always a good idea to be aware of the content.  I would put it at a 16+ age level, but again, this is just my opinion.

1 comment:

  1. I loved this book. Graduated HS in 1994 so it had a lot of fun misc references that were relevant to me. I'm an assistant principal and will say that this book is hotly contested in schools sometimes. I think there is so much in it that could be discussed by teens and parents but yes, the age suggestion will be tricky for some parents.

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