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Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Standing on the fringes of life...

offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.
This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
This is the story of what it's like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.
Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up.
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This book had a lot of hype behind it.  Not just from my Goodreads friends, or my writer friends, but real life people.  Friends. Librarians. Adults.  So, as always, I a) really, really wanted to read it and b) was afraid that it wouldn't live up to my expectations.  And honestly?  I really can't say whether it did.  In general, it was a good book, with moments of real greatness, but it didn't have the consistent brilliance that I'd expected.

What I loved the most was undeniably the surrounding characters.  This book is really and truly a slice of life book; it does not have any real over-arcing plot, not one particular thread to carry it.  It is Charlie and his friends and his family and his life.  And because of that, it is painfully realistic in a way that the large majority of contemporary fiction today is not.  While I do think that Chbosky tried to tackle a few too many issues (rape, homosexuality, drug abuse, "sexual awakenings," abuse, suicide, abortions, etc.) the characters themselves never faltered.  Not a character in this book was perfect, or anything close, and that was wonderful, because everyone has their flaws and their quirks and their own special way of living their life.   Chbosky's characters are the kids lingering behind the school building during hours, the drunken relatives you shake your head at, the football stars you see on television and that girl who always has an opinion on something.  They are real people, real, honest-to-G-d people, and they make this story.

I even liked Charlie, though I wasn't sure about him for a little while.  I loved the raw honesty of his letters, how he never twisted or sugar-coated or spun a tale, he simply told it as it was.  I loved his sweetness, and I loved his thoughtfulness, and I loved that he loved his friends and family.

What kept me from truly loving him, however, was the fact that I simply could not buy into him being a sixteen-year-old boy.  Maybe Chbosky forgot what it's like, but let me tell you, I am around sixteen-year-old  boys every moment of the day, and I can guarantee you that every single one of them knows what masturbation is.  I can guarantee you that they would recognize rape if it happened right before their eyes.  I can guarantee they would not sound like Charlie.

At first, I thought Charlie might have a mental disorder.  That would explain things, to a certain extent.  I waited and waited to discover what this was, but apparently, Charlie is just a really brilliant boy with a troubled past.  If he's as brilliant as he's said to be, why did he sound more like a ten-year-old than a freshman in high school?

The writing, for its part, was quite simple and often repetitive, but that fit with the letters and Charlie.  (Although, if I saw "Incidentally," one more time I was going to gouge my eyes out.)  There were some quotes, however, that I absolutely loved.  I was not the biggest fan of the famous "infinite" quote, but another popular one  had me flipping back the pages so I could read it again, and again, and again.

"Charlie, we accept the love we think we deserve."

I must've read it at least ten times by now and I still cannot get over the beauty and honesty behind those words.

So my feelings on this book are rather complicated.  Some things I loved, some things I didn't, some things I'm not even sure of.  This is more of a 3.5, but I'm feeling generous today.

4 stars.

10 comments:

Michelle

Bet that driving through tunnel thing made you wanna visit Pittsburgh, though, huh? ;)

Lexie

Depends. Would I feel infinite?

Michelle

Probably not. You'd just be like, WHO KNEW A MAJOR CITY WAS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THIS RATHER UNIMPRESSIVE HILL?

Lexie

LE GASP!

Actually, I do intend to go to Pittsburgh someday. When I can drive. Which is not incredibly soon.

Giselle

Wow this sounds neat! The true to life plot sounds boring when I saw it like that but this sounds really intriguing! It's a new one to me as well!

And ps: Yes you have to read Dearly Departed it's really cool!

Lexie

If you can handle a slow plot, I'd definitely recommend it. :D The beginning takes a little while to get through, but it picked up a bit, and I think the characters alone make it worth the read.

I've wanted it for ages, but haven't been able to get my hands on a copy. Next time I go to B&N I'll have to look for it. :D

nea barabea

I really really need to put myself into this book! I've been telling myself to read it since forever. I think it's time :) Awesome review! :) ;)

Lexie

Thanks! :D I hope you like it.

Stepping Out of the Page

I'm glad that you enjoyed this one. I've just come across your blog, but it's great to see that you've just reviewed my favourite book of all time!

Wonderful review :)
Stephanie @ Stepping Out of the Page

Lexie

Thank you! :)

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