One of the great things about teaching teens is their passion. It is also why I write for teens. Angelle and some of my other students were so passionate about this book, were such advocates, that I just had to see why they loved it so much. And I appreciate their courage in recommending it to me. If they are anything like me, then they have a hard time recommending books that mean that much to them. If someone doesn't like a book that you feel speaks to you in such a way that you are changed when you come out the other side, then it feels like they have betrayed you. If they say ugly things about a book that is your heart, they are saying ugly things about you. (I feel like way about Fahrenheit 451. That books means so much to me, and when people criticize it, I feel criticized and my soul is sore.) Some books seem to be a letter written only to us.
I enjoyed Perks. It felt very much like Catcher in the Rye, and I adored Charlie. You have to. The character development was extremely well done, and the innocent yet stark way Charlie viewed life was great. But I'm going to keep my review short so that Angelle can talk about it. After all, this is her Fahrenheit 451.
October 15, 2012
Dear friend,I’ve never reviewed a book formally before and I’m especially nervous because this book is so important to me, but I’ll do my best to do it justice. Ok here it goes. Let’s start with the basics. I was just a wee little sophomore when my friend and past reviewer, Emily, gave me Perks of Being a Wallflower, saying it was one of her favorite books. I was so excited because Emily reads about 5 million books a week (seriously, this girl is Matilda) so I knew that it was something special. I had never read a book like this before. As most 15 year olds, I was reading lots of young adult books with mild subject matters, dreamy boys with cool names like Ashton or Jace, and most importantly, happy endings. Perks of Being a Wallflower is the opposite of all of that nonsense and that is why it is so great. This book is raw and real, so be prepared for disappointment if you’re expecting a bubbly teenybopper novel.
The whole book is written in letters from Charlie to “friend”, who is never revealed. The book starts with Charlie the day before he starts his first day of high school. Charlie is a really introverted dude with serious social problems. He has no friends after the recent suicide of his best friend Michael. He has a hard time connecting with other kids his age and would rather get lost in a book then deal with the things going on around him. It wasn’t until Charlie went to a football game trying to “participate” in high school life that he met Patrick, (possibly the best character EVER) who he knew as “Nothing” from shop class, and of course the one and only Sam. They took him under their wings, appreciating his quirky and shy behavior. Later on in the book they took him to his first high school party, where he met Mary Elizabeth, Alice, and Bob. It was at that party which Patrick finally coined Charlie’s wallflower status. “You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.”
I absolutely love this book because it has REAL characters who I can really relate myself and people I know to. Charlie and his friends are those kids who wear “weird” clothes, listen to music they don’t play on the radio, and have their own ideas about how things should be. They don’t care what people think and I absolutely, positively, 100% love that. I guess I loved these characters so much because I see myself and my friends in them, which makes it so much more real to me. Charlie is so pure because he’s crazy, really he is, but he doesn’t know it. Charlie has a right to be very sad but he isn’t; like everyone else, Charlie is just trying to get through life the best he can, despite his circumstances. You would think Charlie is a depressing character from hearing him described, but he really isn’t and I think that is why he’s such an interesting person. He’s hopelessly in love with Sam, who I like. Usually the main girl character annoys me because she is usually perfect and just kind of deals with the choice of which boy she should choose or something dumb like that. Sam is a real girl with real problems. Her past is a broken one, which made me really like her. She’s a very round character who has her own problems to deal with. Sam is not a damsel in distress begging to be rescued; she is a broken girl struggling against the current of life just trying to keep her head above water. Charlie finds Sam beautiful and I think part of her beauty is in her sadness. Patrick is Sam’s brother and my favorite person ever born, written, thought up, whatever you want to say. He is cooler than any of us will ever be and that is just the truth. I’ll let you take that in for a moment…. Ok and we’re back. Patrick. I LOVE HIM. Let’s talk about it. First of all I want to thank Stephen Chbosky for making him a real person. Patrick as you may or may not know is gay (sorry to tell you ladies), but thankfully is not portrayed as a sassy best friend: purely there to give fashion advice, drink coffee, and make catty comments like most gay characters in books are. Don’t get me wrong, he’s hilarious, but he’s much more dynamic than the occasionally sassy comeback. I think my favorite part about Patrick is how unapologetic he is for being himself and I just love that so much! I enjoyed Mary Elizabeth for her spunk and stubbornness, which I can relate to. I like Bob a lot too because he’s that simple pot head type who’s just nice to everybody. Over all I think Chbosky did a really good job making these characters intriguing. I say intriguing because it’s their faults that make them more interesting. I think we can all see aspects of our own lives in theirs.
I could write a whole novel just talking about how much I enjoyed this book and how important it is to me. It deals with issues like abortion, abuse, and self love, which are real issues teens deal with. I would DEFINITELY suggest this book to anyone, but especially teens. I’ve heard a lot of people say this book is too depressing which I STRONGLY disagree with. Anyone who has actually taken the time to read and UNDERSTAND this book for what it really is knows that this book is something beautiful, and just like Sam, there is a certain beauty in sadness. The best thing about this book is that it’s not obnoxiously sad. It doesn’t shove depressing situations in your face and force you to cry yours eyes out. I think Charlie’s social “wallflower-ness” helps to blatantly express what’s happening and he can honestly express his feelings almost matter of factly. I never felt like the book was supposed to make me cry. It was always the things Charlie said that I just connected with so much that I couldn’t help but to get emotional. This book doesn’t make you cry because you feel bad for Charlie, it makes you cry because you see yourself in Charlie and feel the pain with him. You feel the emotions of all the characters. They are all broken in some way and are just trying to find the missing pieces like everyone is. That’s why it bothers me when people say this book is sad because it’s not. This book is life. Life has some sad moments, some happy ones, but most importantly, infinite ones!