The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Where have I been?

Simon and Schuster sent me a copy of The Perks of Being a Wallflower because the movie adaptation premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this month to some really good reviews, which isn’t surprising after I did a little research and found this book has a huge cult-like following. I’m a sucker for cult followings, innocent cults, not purple kool-aid cults…unless there’s vodka.

Written by Stephen Chbosky, it was published in 1999; thirteen years ago. Where was I? Well, I was pregnant eating chips with my head stuck in, What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

The book is comprised entirely of letters written to an anonymous source, which makes for a fast, yet thought provoking read. The letters are written by Charlie, a high school freshman who lost his best (and seemingly only) friend to suicide.  Charlie’s a straight A student and an avid reader with extremely poignant observations about the world around him.  He’s honest, poetic, sad, innocent, romantic, quirky and cool. He comprehends classic literature and instills it into the modern day, yet, he doesn’t know how to stop a run on sentence…we could be twins. The writing is so easy you zip right along page after page until you realize, you have feelings for Charlie. You understand Charlie and in some way and at some point, you were Charlie.

At a chance meeting at a football game Charlie becomes friends with seniors Patrick & Sam (half-siblings) and they develop a bond. Through his first year of high school he fights his anxiety and depressive tendencies by standing back and taking in the actions of this older crowd.  Along the way he’s introduced to homosexuality, drugs, alcohol, love, infatuation, abortion, among other things, only to immerge at the end of the school year with a better understanding of why he is who he is.

And isn’t that what we were all searching for in high school?

There’s a moment when the three friends drive out of a tunnel in a pickup truck, music blaring and burst into the city’s skyline. The now famous line reads, “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.” I remember those moments, feeling so good and invincible. At the time I knew it was something special but I couldn’t put it into words, I just remember I liked it.

I wish Wallflower would have been written in my time. There’s so many quotes my younger self would have fallen in love with,

So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be. – The next time my kids ask me what high school was like, this is what I’m telling them it felt like for me. So simple. So true.

Things change. And friends leave. And life doesn’t stop for anybody. – Forget high school, I’m still trying to come to terms with this.

The fact that one of these ladies was my mom made me particularly sad because my mom is beautiful. And she’s always on a diet. Sometimes, my dad calls her beautiful, but she cannot hear him. – Charlie gets it.

So obviously I highly recommend getting this book if you’re one of the few (like me) who hadn’t heard of it until now. If you have a teenager you can probably save your money because chances are they already have a copy hidden somewhere. Give it a try before seeing the movie and let me know what you think.