Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Perks of being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky

This is a book that has always interested me, as has for others. It is always a book that is named, never written about or seems to be read - well for me anyway.
After a school friend reading it and then, hearing about Amy reading and enjoying it, it started to interest me more and more. It wasn't until I walked into my college library did I finally see this book in the flesh - in the Banned Book Week section that my library had created.
This book is in the Top 10 books in the world to be banned. And from reading it, I can see why with the casual references to drugs, sex, alcohol, suicide and wait for it - being gay. Although this may cause people to be clicking the return button already from this review, wait. I could name a few books that address these issues and are not as banned as this one book - it's merely because it is all contained in this one 200-page odd book that adults - sorry - run the other way in fright. However - maybe teenagers actually like it. So TAKE THAT (I so thought of the band then...)

Synopsis: Charlie is starting high school as a freshman - alone. His best and only friend has gone and he is thought weird, geeky and socially awkward by his peers. This is until he is befriended by some seniors who take him under their wing and introduce him to the life of a typical teenager: relationships, love, drugs, alcohol and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Review: This is quite an...unusual book. I don't quite know how to put this review really.
Charlie is an interesting character. We start by knowing nothing and end with knowing not everything. His narrative is told through one sided letters by Charlie to a person he reveals he heard people talking about at his high school and thought he looked like a nice guy who wouldn't mind him sending him letters. Annoyingly, we never find out who this guy is.
Charlie starts of by having a lot of short sentences, like basic Year 1 language. I did this, I did that etc. But by the end of the novel, I found he wrote more freely and I almost enjoyed his writing. This book is not one where you can admire the vivid descriptions or be amazed by the choice of words. It is like Chbosky is saying 'Here's the story with no added crap. Like it or not'. Very different approach, but I liked this way. There was no metaphors and stupid representations of things you have to think yourself. It was just simple a story that could happen to a teenager.

Now, after reading some reviews on Goodreads, this book is thrashed down with a stick a lot. I admit, this is like putting a teenager in a book and adding every possible thing that could happen to a them in these years at once, but seriously, you know who you are, that does happen. I know a few people who have experienced all these things. Just because it is in a book doesn't it mean everything is fictional.
   Charlie was a likeable character I guess, although I found his naivity a tad annoying after a while. He just let people do things! The other characters were also great especially Sam and Patrick, the two seniors that befriend Charlie. There is this interesting, different relationship with all of them and things happen that would never be looked at in other YA novels which I liked. The other characters added a unique spin to this novel, each very original and typical of any teenager. Charlie seemed much younger than he was, just 16, my age.

Any readers of the book will sympathise with Charlie, especially if you are around his age. I remember being socially awkward myself, not quite sure what was the right or wrong thing to say in reply, how to talk to guys in a more mature, less playful way and how to arrange events without insulting anyone.
This really is a novel that anyone going or have gone through teenage years will understand and relate to, as well and feeling bad for Charlie. His sister and brother are no help, so with only two people much older than you for help, I think I would be like Charlie in that situation.

This is just something about this book that made me not love it, but not hate it either. I liked the references to the various books, which have also been banned (ha! Like Chbosky knew!) and the characters developing relationships. These are the things that made me enjoy the book. I think the main thing that made me not like this was the fact we never know what is wrong with Charlie, or who this person the letters are being sent to. I mean, if I'm going to read your book, you need to tell me these things, and there's not going to be a sequel, so do it now!

This book is strictly a more advanced read. It is complicated and I can see why it is one of the most banned books for the content, so be warned, this isn't a real YA book although it deals with that age range. The book provides a unique portrayal of teenage life that although, may seem unrealistic, I can assure you it is quite well done. It was interesting reading about Charlie and how he was accepted. There are many things about this book that I didn't like, the ending, the writing, Charlie himself at points. This book which everyone has heard of is nothing like you expect and will surprise you I think too. Although a slightly disappointment, it was very original and does stand out and is for any fans of John Green.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5

This book is being made into a movie for release in 2012, written and directed by Stephen Chbosky himself starring Logan Lerman (Charlie), Emma Watson (Sam) and Ezra Miller (Patrick). See here for more details

Author's Website:
Pages: 213
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Challenges: None

Some books that also contain the issues addressed in this book:
Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher - suicide
Diving In - Kate Cann - sex
Pretty Things - Sara Manning - drugs, alcohol, sex

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