It’s not the easiest thing in the world being a spectator. I don’t mean at a football game either – I’ll cheer as loud as the big guy next to me at a footy game – I mean a social spectator. I can clearly recall lots of moments from my childhood that I spent observing rather than participating. Even now as an adult, I much rather sitting back and listening to a conversation between a group of people than chucking in my two cents worth. I’ll be honest, I can talk your ear off if you let me, but only when I think what I have saying actually means something and it’s worth saying. I don’t see the point in spewing out words just because you feel pressured into saying something – it just seems like a waste of words and half the time you come off looking like an idiot. I did have about five years of craziness as a young adult, but when I got over that, I went back to my old observational ways which I will admit often appears to be disinterest (ok, sometimes it is, but that’s very rare). But I still often feel pressured into participating, which while it is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s not my style and it hasn’t been ever since I was little. You know the saying “a leopard never changes its spots”? Well, a Heather never changes her social style. For most of my life, being a non-participant in things has been frowned upon. Which is why when I read The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, I immediately felt better about my lack of social participation.
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is apparently a cult classic, though I admit I hadn’t heard of it until the release of the recent film adaptation starring the beautiful Emma Watson and the pinch-your-cheeks cute Logan Lerman as the main character, Charlie (I’ve not seen the film, so if anyone reading this has seen it – is it worth watching?). But after reading it, I can see why it is so popular and why people would take the time to make a film out of it. Incidentally, the author of the book, Stephen Chbosky, also wrote and directed the film adaptation, which I think is great as I would assume that the film is fairly true to the book.
Charlie is fifteen, a high school freshman, a bit of a nerd, unpopular and an observer (or as one character points out, a wallflower). Basically Charlie is everything that ninety percent of us have been at some stage in our lives. The one real friend he had has committed suicide and so he enters the world of high school with no friends and little in the way of social skills, but with a knack of seeing things that the rest of us miss because we are too busy making ourselves heard. He is encouraged to participate in life by one of his teachers and this is the point at which Charlie’s life changes. While I wouldn’t say that I am as socially awkward as Charlie, I understood the difficulty he faced with trying to fit in. Some of the situations he finds himself in will make you cringe, some will make you laugh and some will make you remember exactly what it was like to be at that point in your life when you are just starting to discover yourself and the world is altogether a rather confusing place – particularly when the majority of people you associate with are just as confused about things as you are. It really is the blind leading the blind.
The narrative takes the form of a series of letters, from Charlie to an unknown person. I found this to be more relatable than a narrative that is simply in the first person. It allows us to see all of Charlie’s innermost thoughts, even the ones that he keeps from the people he knows. When you really think about it, we are all more likely to share a deepest, darkest secrets with a person that is completely unknown to us, than sharing them with one of our closest friends. The use of the letters also draws the reader into the story in a much more complete way – it seems as though you are the person being written to. I found my emotional attachment to Charlie to be greater, as I imagined that I had just received each letter in the post. As we never find out who the anonymous person is, it makes the whole experience far more real. Chbosky’s writing has a natural and honest feeling to it, which only assists in the emotional attachment and his gradual building of Charlie as a person is, in my opinion, beautiful. We start with a teenager who has spent most of his life as a loner and someone that worries a lot – often getting panicky to the point of tears. By the time you reach the end of the book, Charlie is essentially still the same person inside but is more at ease with life and understands why he is the way he is. And without giving too much away, a discovery at the end of the book will have you wondering why you didn’t pick it earlier and feeling a little bit devastated for Charlie.
Overall, this was a very moving and relatable book – I think everyone would be able to find a bit of themselves inside it and I would recommend that everyone read it once in their life. While it’s obviously aimed at teenagers, it’s the sort of book that everyone can appreciate, no matter their age. If anyone else has read this, I would be very interested to hear some thoughts on it and if it made you think about your highschool years differently.
RATING –10 out of 10
WHO YOU’LL LOVE – Charlie. You’ll see why.
FAVOURITE QUOTE – “As I was walking up the stairs to my dad’s old room, and I was looking at the old photographs, I started thinking that there was a time when these weren’t memories. That someone actually took that photograph, and the people in the photograph had just eaten lunch or something.”