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The Perks of being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky

2012/09/25

I saw a trailer for the upcoming movie adaptation of this novel a few weeks ago, and was intrigued enough to pick up the book. As one of those people who never attended a public high school, I usually feel cynical, skeptical, or disillusioned when reading YA fiction about the high school experience.

In this novel, Charlie, the narrator, writes letters to an unknown recipient, describing his first weeks and months and year as a freshman in high school. In his first letter, Charlie writes about the suicide of his friend, Michael, during the end of middle school; about the way it affected him and how Charlie’s family and counselors and teachers treated him differently because of it. In following letters, Charlie writes about his family — his parents, older brother, and older sister; his English teacher, who takes the time to talk with Charlie and give him more challenging books to read and discuss; his new friends, Pat and Sam. Most of his letters describe fairly ordinary days, conversations between Charlie and the people around him, observations and confused ramblings about the things that don’t make sense.

I really liked the voice of the narrator and his observations of the people and interactions around him. I love the character of Bill, the teacher who notices Charlie and encourages and challenges him to read and write. And even though this is a story about high school, it all seems so emerging adult-y and existential and real, cliches and all. I had to laugh when reading a review on Goodreads that talked about how, if you use Tumblr, you will most likely have run into quotes from this novel, superimposed on an edgy or bright yellow-green background. Chbosky is skilled at crafting ambiguous lines that catch the ear and make you think that you are thinking deep thoughts — and who knows? Maybe you are.

So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m trying to figure out how that could be.

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