Tuesday, September 22

[Review] The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky

Author: Stephen Chbosky

Original Title: The perks of being a wallflower
Publisher: Pocket Books
Release Date: February 2nd, 2009
Finished Date: March 31st, 2015
Pages: 232
Read in: English

"I walk around the school hallways and look at the people. I look at the teachers and wonder why they're here. Not in a mean way. In a curious way. It's like looking at all the students and wondering who's had their heart broken that day...or wondering who did the heart breaking and wondering why."
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 years 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 mixed 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 Charlie can't stay on the sideline 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.
Source: GoodReads

Final Rating:  out of 5

Please don’t hate me for this. I mean to offend no one.
I had heard wonderful things about The perks of being a wallflower. And by that I mean that it is many people’s favourite book ever. Yep. I was expecting greatness. I was expecting mindblowingness (And no, I don’t even care that that word does not exist. It does now). Instead, I got the meh of an awkward teenager’s life. And note that teenager is a term applied loosely here, considering Charlie sounds like he is a seven year-old.
Don’t get me wrong, it is a very real portrait of the (very) early years of teenager awkwardness. It is also kind of boring. Especially if you see the big twist/reveal at the end coming from the beginning, like I did.

I am a very strong advocate of reading the book before watching the film/tv adaptation, so even though I knew there was a film I did not watch it, but I seriously believe its potential to be better than the book was.

The following extended review contains spoilers
If you have not yet read the book and/or do not wish to be spoiled, please do not read any further.

There are many reasons why this book didn’t work for me:
  • Charlie is a teenager, but he sounds like a child. The book is entirely written in letters, and through those letters we learn that not only is Charlie a very gifted child academically, but he is also in an advanced English class, often receiving extra writing assignments. This all fell very flat for me, as the writing style of said letters was mediocre at best. It was in no way worthy of any sort of praise as was described.
  • But let’s backtrack a little to those letters. As I said, the book is a compilation of letters written by Charlie to someone. We don’t know who this someone is. Here is what we’re told:
«Dear friend, I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn't try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have.»
These are Charlie’s standards for morality. That someone didn’t sleep with someone else at a party. Even though he or she could have. Because that’s all that matters, right?
Seriously, am I the only one that does not understand this? Is there some kind of deeper symbolism and meaning to this that I just can't understand?
  • This book’s biggest flaw, as I understand it, is that it tries to deal with everything at the same time. This book mentions anything and everything. You name it, it’s there. Suicide, death, rape, abortion, drugs, homosexuality, social exclusion, mental issues, domestic abuse, sexual experiences, child molestation, incest. They are all there. But the book doesn’t actually deal with any of them with the amount of depth and care these issues deserve. It goes from one to the next, and as soon as something “traumatic” has happened, we turn the page and it’s forgotten - there is a new issue to address. It felt completely indifferent, when it should have been touching. It’s like it became a game of “let’s-see-how-many-controversial-and-deep-issues-I-can-include-in-a-200-page-book”. And honestly, if there is such a game, Mr. Chbosky won.

I can see the potential this book had, and I understand that most people seem to love it - I can even, to some degree, understand why. It just didn’t work for me.

What did you think?

Let me know in the comments below! :)

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