It’s Friday afternoon and I’m drinking plain old Tetley tea with no delicious date snack of any kind on this extra hot and sultry summer afternoon. This is all out of my blogging comfort zone, but we just had a book club meeting this morning and I wanted to write this post while I had a chance, as tomorrow will be spent getting ready to leave for our trip out west early on Sunday morning.
We got together this morning to discuss The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, a teen book that I knew nothing about and probably would never have heard of if not for the film that came out in 2012, which I have never seen but am planning to watch tonight. This is a coming-of-age story set in 1991 and is told from the point of view of Charlie, a fifteen-year-old high school student, in the form of letters to an anonymous friend. Charlie is socially awkward and, in his first year of high school, has no friends, since his friend Michael from middle school recently committed suicide. He is befriended by two seniors, Sam and Patrick, half-brother and -sister who take him under their wings and guide him through the complex intricacies of fitting in, thereby alleviating his loneliness. Along the way, other students join their group and drift away, relationships form and fade, but nothing escapes Charlie’s notice as he absorbs all the activities and experiences going on around him. We also gain insight into the relationships he has with his various family members, from immediate family to those that make up his extended family. Taking place over the course of a single year, this short novel follows Charlie from loneliness to social acceptance and personal insight to “aloneness” (is that a word?), which is not the same as loneliness. I think it is a modern-day Catcher in the Rye, except even better, in my opinion (I never really enjoyed the Salinger novel). Chbosky admits to being heavily influenced by Catcher in the Rye, along with F. Scott Fitzgerald, which is evident in the novel. I didn’t know what to expect from this, but I always try to include at least one Children’s or Young Adult novel on our list, usually during the summer for a bit of a lighter read, so I was thrilled to hear that almost everyone loved this book! And the person who didn’t love it just didn’t really enjoy the style of the writing - she didn’t hate the book, she thought it was just ok. The voice of Charlie reminded me quite alot of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which we read for my book group many years ago and which everyone loved. People thought Charlie was sweet and unusually perceptive for his age, that he had a personality that, while socially awkward, did not “put others off”. We speculated about whether he was “on the spectrum”, but came to no definite conclusions. One member noted that there was lots of crying in this book, mostly by Charlie, but also by other characters. Another member, who is a teacher at one of my schools, says she thought this captured the experiences of a year in the life of an awkward teenager perfectly. We thought that the epistolary style suited this novel, as it was capturing snapshots of his life, which is how we live. But he not only presented what happened, he also analyzed these experiences, what they meant for him and for others. We thought the clues as to Charlie’s history were fed to us at the right pace, so we weren’t kept in total suspense and then given too much information all at once. We thought Charlie was “hopeful-sad” - we were optimistic for him, but realized that he would always be more sensitive to his own thoughts and feelings and those of others than most. I would highly recommend this for any individual or any book club with readers of any age, but the content is too mature for kids under age fifteen.
That’s all for today. Stay cool and keep reading!Bye for now…