Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Some books out there capture the tales of swashbuckling heroes and princesses and glass castles. There are some that are chock-filled with humourous anecdotes about a talking dog. And some, unsurprisingly, follow vampires and immortals and angels as they live, unseen, among humans in our world today. Then, there are books, simple, short and sweet, about life. Stephen Chbosky's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" is one of those books.

Charlie is a fifteen-year old boy. He's had a pretty normal life--his parents are caring, his older brother and sister constantly bicker--until his friend Michael commits suicide. Things have never been quite as normal after that. When Charlie befriends two seniors, Patrick and his sister Sam, he is exposed to parties, drugs and the Rocky Horror Picture Show. More importantly, however, he soon experiences love and friendship--and discovers what life is really about.

As with any coming-of-age story, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" is told by a compellingly personal narrative voice. Charlie is a thoughtfully naive boy, and his voice is extremely present throughout the entire novel. What makes this even more so is the epistolary form of the book. It really seems as if he is speaking to you, despite the fact that the letters are addressed simply as "Dear Friend". However, one thing that caught me off guard was the fact that Charlie sounded much younger than he really is. The way he wrote, such as through simple sentences, and the things he said made him seem like he was nine-years old instead of fifteen. Maybe this is part of his naivete and innocence, as well as part of the unique way he filters things and thinks about them, but it was just a little strange to me. That being said, I was able to get a good sense of Charlie's character, something that is quintessentially 'Charlie-esque', which lends itself nicely with the coming-of-age element of the novel.

The events told by Charlie in his letters, though nothing extraordinary, didn't get boring. Through Charlie's observations and thoughts, I learned more about the nuances in the relationships between characters. Can I just say here that I really like Patrick? All of the characters are intensely 'real', but Patrick was even more three-dimensional than the rest, in the way that he didn't fall under a 'stock coming-of-age character'. For example, you have the girl that the protagonist is interested in, and is ultimately the one who reveals, in one way or another, the 'lesson' of the book. You also have the sibling who is going through some problems, and who the protagonist reaches out to. Patrick, however, wasn't like any of the other characters in other books of the same genre. He's definitely one to look out for if you decide to read the book.

Overall, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" is a short and sweet coming-of-age story, with a uniquely lovable narrator and a cast of interesting, realistic characters. It's not 'oh sweet baby Jesus', drop-dead amazing, but there's a reason it's this critically acclaimed. I'd say it's worth a read in one point in your life.

Rating: 4/5 (though I was wavering between a 3 and a 4--probably because I'm not a huge lover of coming-of-age stories)

The trailer for the movie seems pretty good though! A nice way of seeing the characters come to life. Plus, I think Mr. Chbosky wrote the screenplay, as well, which is a nice touch.

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