Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

     "Well, I think that Michael was a nice guy and I don't understand why he did it.  As much as I feel sad, I think that not knowing is what really bothers me."
      The counselor said that he suspected that Michael had 'problems at home' and didn't feel like he had anyone to talk to.  That's maybe why he felt all alone and killed himself.
     Then, I started screaming at the guidance counselor that Michael could have talked to me.  And I started crying even harder.  He tried to calm me down by saying that he meant an adult like a teacher or a guidance counselor.  But it didn't work and eventually my brother came by the middle school in his Camaro to pick me up.

Because I have a crush on a girl who loves this book Because the movie looked good, I decided to read this book before heading to the theater.  I loved this book.  Why?  Answering that question is more difficult:

Cynical Randy:  This is a trite coming-of-age high school novel, which is redundant because all coming-of-age novels are trite.  Why does anyone bother reading this shit?
Sentimental Randy:  Because it conveys a sense of the alienation coupled with the desire to belong that people who went to high school can relate to.
Cynical Randy:  You are such a little bitch.
Sentimental Randy:  And, Perks is noteworthy because the protagonist, Charlie, is an icon of sensitivity.  He's sensitive to everything and everyone around him.
Cynical Randy:  Is anyone still listening to this?  This is a trashy high school novel published by MTV.  It's about as literary as N'Sync.  This is Catcher in the Rye Lite, 0 trans fat, 0 calories.
Sentimental Randy:  But, it's not.  It comes from a different place than Catcher; Holden is outwardly critical of everyone around him.  Everyone's a phony, except him.  Charlie's the opposite: he accepts everyone around him.
Cynical Randy:  You're making stuff up.  I'm calling shenanigans.
Sentimental Randy:  Maybe I am.  Probably.  Maybe I just like this novel because I like it, and that's enough.  In fact, that's definitely enough.


Writing this review made me feel infinite.

Christopher's Review

Christine's Review


Christopher said...

I like this book. I think it's a lot better than it has to be--for example, it juggles multiple storylines with real skill, and the twist ending is surprisingly effective. I taught it in the tenth grade a few years ago to mixed reactions; a lot of the pop culture stuff is dated (even more dated than you referencing N'Sync). At least one girl (or her parents) refused to read it on moral grounds.

Anyhow, let me know how the movie is.

billy said...

I love this book, but I'm not sure I know why. I read it in high school and loved it and picked it up again a few months ago in anticipation of the movie (which I still haven't seen, but want to), and loved it again. I think what moves me about this book is how closely I identify with Charlie, even though I'm not all that similar to him. I feel like Charlie is what would happen if you took certain parts of middle school/early high school Billy and magnified them. Regardless, I always feel "infinite" when I finish.

R.M. Fiedler said...

The movie's good; the only book adaptation I like as much is Fight Club. Of course, the book's better. And they took out a lot of the scenes I liked: Charlie's sister catching Charlie smoking after her abortion; dinner at the teacher's house. Nonetheless, the movie did a good job of capturing the sense of the book. Also, Hermione's pretty. And, I love that Anne from Arrested Development is in the movie.

And, I agree with you, Billy: one of the likable things about this book is how relatable Charlie is. Which is strange, because I was nothing like Charlie in high school. But maybe it's because Charlie magnifies feelings that many people go through during high school. Maybe the high school teachers out there have an opinion on this.

Christopher said...

I think we can all agree: Hermione is pretty.

Brittany said...

Someone in my FB book group recently wrote a review of the book (

and I put my finger on what R.M. Fiedler said in my comment to her before coming back here and seeing "because Charlie magnifies feelings that many people go through during high school. Maybe the high school teachers out there have an opinion on this" and I would say: ABSOLUTELY.

The relevant bit: "Being a teacher of high school seniors is a fascinating experience of how broken everyone feels during those teenage years regardless of whether their problems are heavy or light - and everyone feels the weight of their problems pretty equally."

Whether their problem is that their dad and mom are both in prison for drug use and their girlfriend is pregnant or whether their problem is that they buy all their clothes secondhand and feel like everyone notices - they seem to express that it's the end of the world equally.

Teenagerhood is a magnifying glass that I think very few people win. In retrospect some of us realize our problems were really small and some of us realize our problems were really too big to be handling on our own, but it's nice to have this little book that captures that feeling.