I have a confession to make. I have been taken by the cute cover of the paperback edition of this book and this is the primary reason why I got curious about it in the first place. You must know, I am not quirky when it comes to book covers but there are times, like this one, when a cute cover actually makes me take a second (longer) look at a book. I was able to get hold of a free ebook, and although my copy does not have that cute cover in it, I am still glad I got my curiosity satiated.
All along, I thought that The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is just a typical coming-of-age story, not far different from Paul Zindel’s Confessions of a Teenage Baboon or an older version of Judy Blume’s Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. I didn’t exactly expect to get too emotionally affected with this book. With Chbosky’s writing, however, it is hard not to become affected.
The main character is Charlie, and that is all we can ever know about his name. The story is told in his voice through a series of letters to an anonymous addressee we will also never come to know. Despite this anonymity, Charlie recounts the details of his life starting from his first day in high school. Charlie begins his letter by explaining why he needs to write the letters to this particular person by saying:
“I just need to know that someone out there listens and understands and doesn’t try to sleep with people even if they could have. I need to know that these people exist.”
I am reminded of what a friend told me one time: “There is absolute comfort in anonymity.” Somehow, I am inclined to agree. Being anonymous makes us more honest with ourselves and our feelings and this is when our true selves finally get to the core because we are not conscious of what others might say or think about us. I remember keeping a diary when I was in grade school which actually only contains the names of my crushes, but I remember being so careful about it that I still used codenames for them, lest my mother sees my it!
The letters of Charlie are intimate and honest and depicts his strong resolve to find friendship and acceptance, despite his being a wallflower. What is a wallflower exactly? Charlie’s friend, Patrick, describes a wallflower as someone who “see(s) things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.”
Charlie knows that he is a wallflower so he tries his best to participate. In the process, he meets Sam and Patrick whom he considers his bestest friends in the whole world. Of all the characters recounted in Charlie’s letters, I love his teacher, Bill, the most. For one, he gives books to Charlie and, for two, makes him write essays about them. I didn’t have any teacher like Bill though I would have loved to have one like him because at least I would have an early start writing book essays. Now, these books aren’t part of a subject but are actually extra work, but I can feel that Charlie enjoys them because these books play a major part in his story. And these books are, as a matter of fact, classic books! Come to think of it, Charlie is only 15 and he already digs classics! I feel so intimidated, especially that most of the books he mentioned I have not ever seen or heard before. But at least I am reading The Great Gatsby now. I plan to read Catcher in the Rye next. No small thanks to dear Charlie.
At 15, Charlie is very observant and introspective.
“I don’t think we should base so much on weight, muscles, and a good hair day, but when it happens, it’s nice. It really is.”
I don’t think I am like him when I was that age, except for his constant desire to get good grades. The friends he associated with and the kind of school he went into was far different from what I had when I was in high school. Still, I felt a strong kind of affinity with what Charlie has to go through growing up and his musings are very heart-warming, albeit melancholic. What kind of parents does Charlie have who cannot tell when their son is high on LSD or marijuana? My goodness.
But despite his parents’ failings, Charlie still has a big heart. He loves to give gifts and takes a lot of effort to choose which kind of gift he could best give to someone. Poetry, cassette tapes, books – all the things that are important to him he chose to give away. At that age, Charlie already knew that loving also means giving.
“And I guess I realized at that moment that I really did love her. Because there was nothing to gain, and that didn’t matter.”
Finally, I want to share one of my most favorite parts:
“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.”
What kind of a 15-year old can say that? Oh, Charlie.
29/50 2012 Goodreads Reading Challenge.
2/4 Required Reading: August 2012