The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Author: Stephen Chbosky
Way back when, an author by the name of J.D Salinger wrote the classic book about teenage life, The Catcher in the Rye, a book that was about a young man that is brutally honest, frank, and yet, endearing. It seems that Chbosky's intentions were that to take the tough but wise protagonist/narrator who tells his story about life and growing up. However, I have not read Catcher, I have read Perks of Being a Wallflower and honestly, I feel that while the dialogue is very true to teenagers and that the activities that teenagers get involved in, sex, drugs and Rocky Horror are real, but after reading this slim novel, I had one burning question:
Why the hell should I care?
Granted, Perks is a book with its own cult following, one that I had heard talked about by teens for ages until I actually read the book itself, and to be honest, I am not impressed.
I read Perks when I was the age of the narrator, Charlie, I was about to start high school, so it was about the end of the year that I read the book. The story involves Charlie, a freshman who writes to an anonymous friend, one we never learn the identity of. Charlie's friend killed himself not too long ago, so Charlie's method of grieving is to cry. However, it is not long before he meets up with the cool kids and is introduced into their life, their circle of friends, their lives. Charlie has problems brewing at home, so he is just desperate to find friends and be cool, so he does. However, he also befriends a teacher who challenges him and lets him work to his full potential. In the end, his potential is pretty much a small after thought, seeing as smoking and alcohol have taken up what could make him great. And his friends are the 'good guys'.
One of my major problems does not lie in the whole aspect of a kid doing drugs, partying and living his life with older kids, I pretty much did the same growing, granted I didn't immerse myself into the drugs and alcohol subculture. However, Charlie was not me at all growing up. Reading this book, I kind of felt, dare I say, repulsed by him. He seemed less of a cool kid hanging out with the seniors, more or less the little freshman who followed around the big kids. Reading him talk about his interactions with his friends, I didn't feel jealous, I just felt like how the hell is he just coasting by life, getting friends that are anything but trustworthy, dating people who are out of his league, and as I mentioned before, the only thing I got out of this was that he gets into addiction and all of that jazz. It's rather difficult to describe my dislike for Charlie, but I just felt that because he was popular, because he went to parties, he wasn't someone I wanted to be, he wasn't my voice. For once I felt like this young teenage boy was just someone I wouldn't be friends with, making me feel like a judgmental senior, which sounds horrible, and yet, I was one of the few who felt that this book did not speak out to them.
Another gripe I had with Perks was that though it is a short, sleek novel, nothing seems to happen that is particularly important. Besides the parties, the hanging out, the drinking and smoking, all I really walked away with was not to make the same mistakes these characters did. Nothing threatened their lives, they had lousy times, but nothing really changed them, there was no eventual realization that maybe life was something important not to waste time lazing around. Call me cold, but I expecting something big to change their lives, death, AIDS, an STD, anything that made the book truly stand out as something other then a bored teen's guide to parting.
Damn, do I feel like an adult.
In a nutshell, The Perks of Being a Wallflower isn't a bad book; it's not very long, it's readable, the dialogue is believable, and there are some scenes that stand out. It's not a bad book, it just has way too much of a cult following based upon a fair young adult novel. If you want to read a book that is this, only 100 million times better is Looking for Alaska. Believe me, it blows this one out of the water and justifies my annoyance for this book.