As many of you that read this blog know, I rarely use this platform for commentary or review unless it is something that truly moves me and takes me to another place. I have done a few film and software reviews in the past, but I am tackling a book review for the first time. I by no means am a critic, then again aren’t we all critics of life offering our own personal commentary and opinions. That was a slight tangent.
Let us focus back to the review.
After two days, I completed the Perks of Being a Wallflower. I must say, having read three books by MTV publishing, they truly have their heart on the pulse of the human psyche. What is so troubling is that they seem to have lost touch on the television and film production side. Their wayward attempt to capitalize on sensationalized crap for the all important buck has morally corrupted them from their original mission over twenty years ago. They began as a groundbreaking experiment to bring the music and video world together as one and teach us all to not be afraid to take a risk. They were the creative outlet for so many of us growing up. Now Skins, that failed attempt at being a pedifile and Jersey Shore have reinforced that they have lost their way.
Alas, they publish books and The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a brilliant, poignant coming of age drama with subtle hints of humor and unfocused romance added into the mix.
Charlie is a modern day hero with his lack of direction, separation from reality and heart of gold. In Charlie’s world he just wants to fit in. He is desperate to “belong” and will do anything to get to that point. While he is appeasing everyone which entails drugs, drinking, homosexual activities and voyeurism, he forgets to “participate”. As he wanders through life at the ripe old age of 15 he meets the older Sara and Patrick, step brother and sister who take him away to a world he has never known. From dance clubs to parties, Charlie enters a world reserved for someone much older. From mediocrity to feeling “infinite”, Charlie will learn more in one year than he will ever know for the rest of his life. Along the way, he will feel love and true unconditional friendship.
Told through letters Charlie writes to an anonymous friend, his personal journey unravels as he deals with family, school, dating, sex, drugs and finding a place in this world.
The novel takes place for a period of almost one year in 1991. Void of cell phones, tablets, social networks and other channels that would dismantle our ability to connect, this period was a time of connection and about a boy that desperately wanted one.
It is rare that a novel comes along that swallows you and puts you into the soul of the character. As a young adolescent, we have all dealt with some things that we brush under the rug and never discuss. Perhaps they are too taboo or unacceptable by societies standards. Author Stephen Chbosky tackles the darkest side of adolescence with poise and stamina. He does not hold back any punches and in the end, you are almost ready yourself as the reader to open up to some of your own hidden emotions.
Growing up isn’t easy for everyone and for all the books about the popular kids that had the looks, money and brains, here is one about the other ones. Yes, Charlie’s brother is a star at Penn State, his sister finished number two in her graduating class and his parents are still handsome and caring but for Charlie, he never belonged. His greatest relationship to date was with his Aunt Helen that died eight years earlier in a car accident while getting a gift for Charlie’s birthday. That pain and sense of personal responsibility has never left him.
The recipient of his letters is never revealed nor is it important. What is of critical importance is that Charlie found direction, at times corrupt to most but comforting to others.
If you want a book that tackles the challenges of finding your place, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an amazing piece of writing.