Being an avid reader, it takes a lot to get me to rave over a book. I’ll read anything put in front of me, especially if I’m going to be traveling somewhere for a while. There are very few books I don’t finish. So when one resonates with me, it’s an exciting time.
On the plane to Beijing, I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I didn’t know much about it, except that there was a movie with Emma Watson in it. I couldn’t put it down after the first page. I’d keep going to the bathroom to rinse off my face just so I could keep reading it. It’s not a very long read. When it was over, I told my fiancé that when his children started dating, they were going to read this book.
What’s the Story about?
The story is a collection of letters from a boy named Charlie. Charlie’s writing about his freshman year of high school in the ‘90s. He befriends some seniors and spends a lot of time with them. He writes about good times, hard times, and about his first love and relationship. He writes about how he goes from the “Wallflower” to someone who actively participates in life.
Charlie starts writing to a person named Friend because she told him Friend would listen. We never find out who Friend is, nor do we find out who she is. All we know is that not long after a friend named Michael commits suicide, Charlie starts writing to Friend. After that first letter, she is never mentioned again. Charlie admits his real name isn’t Charlie. He doesn’t want Friend to know who he is. The only clue we’re given about Friend is that he’s much older than Charlie.
I’ve tried to work out who Friend could possibly be, but none of my guesses made any sense. I thought it could’ve been Charlie’s English teacher, Bill, but if that’s who it was, why would he tell him about interacting with Bill? Maybe instead, the reader was meant to be Friend.
Even though the story took place in the ‘90s, it was still relatable. The problems Charlie talked about in the book were things I remember other people around me talking about when I was in high school. Besides the occasional references to Nirvana and The Smiths.
Speaking of The Smiths, they’re referenced a lot throughout the book. Every major character Charlie encounters, he recommends they listen to “Asleep” by The Smiths. Either everyone resonated with “Asleep,” or the band itself resonates with the characters.
With every character, I could picture someone that was just like them. Whenever I read a book, my brain immediately pictures movie scenes. With each character described, I picture someone I encountered in my life as that character. Someone always fits the description in these stories. Unless the characters are animals. Then it doesn’t work as well, but luckily they’re humans in this book.
One of the best characters in the book was Charlie’s English teacher, Bill. Bill started noticing Charlie’s talent in English and would give him extra assignments to help him strengthen his skills. At first, I was a little creeped out by Bill and started wondering if he had another goal. But after a few scenes with Bill, I realized he was a mentor figure to Charlie, which was something Charlie had never had. Bill says one of my favorite lines in the whole book:
We accept the love we think we deserve.
Some quotes make you sit back and think about your life. This is one of those quotes.
When I finished the book, I found myself thinking, “What if I read it as a teenager?” As an adult, it felt nostalgic and relatable. It made me think of people that went through these same issues as Charlie and the people around them. If I read it as a teenager, would it have changed my life?
My partner’s daughter is fourteen years old. While I do want her to one day read this, I’m not sure if now is the time. Charlie is a child-like character, himself, but that doesn’t justify risking her reading something that might be a little too old for her.
I wish I read this book when I was a teenager. I find myself wondering if it would’ve changed my life if I found this book when I was younger. Maybe it would’ve. Maybe not. But I know when she’s ready for the book, I’ll be more than happy to give it to her.