The Perks of Being a Wallflower

perksTitle: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Author: Stephen Chbosky.

Summary: Charlie is a freshman. And while he’s not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. Charlie is attempting to navigate his way 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. But Charlie can’t stay on the sideline forever. 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.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 2/5

Review: I pretty much finished this book in one sitting, but not for any positive reasons. The hipster handbook, i knew what i was letting myself in for in regards to overly meaningful while ultimately vague one-liner quotes. But i hadn’t realised just how bad the entire book was.

Told in a series of letters to someone the narrator, Charlie, has never even met, the concept is intriguing. The problems started immediately for me, though. Charlie is 15 years old, but his use of language makes him seem more like seven, if that. I can forgive poor language if it adds to the character; if it gives a sense of the person telling the story; if there is a point. In this case, it didn’t and there wasn’t.

Charlie is purportedly “intelligent beyond his years,” but to be totally un-PC, he just came across as “special” to me. He noticed things, he wondered things, he read books… but everything he conveyed about these things was unenlightened, simple and childlike. He doesn’t grasp the points he’s making, the reader does. His awkward use of English and his simple-mindedness often made me chuckle and snicker, but i’m pretty sure it wasn’t meant to.

I got through this book so quickly because i was constantly waiting. I was waiting for something to happen. Something to really kick the book into gear, to get it going. I was still waiting by the time i turned the last page. The book trundles along, never enough to be truly dull, but never really getting exciting.

Several times Charlie references the fact that the person he is sending his letters to doesn’t know who he is. Charlie says he hopes the receiver of the letters doesn’t mind getting post from a random stranger in the mail. By the end of the book he wants his recipient to “believe that things are good” with him, and that he will “believe the same about you.” With the letters addressed ‘Dear Friend’, and a sex never mentioned, the reader of the book is placed into the role of the recipient of the letters. But really? I never managed to put myself there. At the end of each particularly self-pitying/”meaningful”/dramatic letter, i imagined the fictional character who was receiving them frowning at yet another letter from that weird kid, screwing it up and throwing it away unread. And i can’t blame him.

Constantly referencing certain books, music and recreational hobbies, this book is trying hard to be the hipster handbook it has become. For me, though, any book that tries too hard to be something is doing it wrong.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower wanted to be another Catcher in the Rye, but ultimately wound up being the next Diary of Adrian Mole.


About Wendleberry
I'm odd.

5 Responses to The Perks of Being a Wallflower

  1. mshannahw says:

    Heh, good slagging here! I read this years ago (yeah, I’m so cool I read this before it was cool! No, really I did! I got it for xmas in 2003) and loved it, but I was a teenager then and I wonder if I would feel the same if I re-read it now – probably not, as the criticism you’ve made here are things that would grate on my nerves, too. That said, I saw the movie recently-ish and absolutely LOVED it…

    • Wendleberry says:

      This is definitely more a young-adult book (emphasis on the young). I can imagine myself loving it as an adolescent. But as an adult my tastes are a little more refined, and this had far too many rough edges.
      Before i read the book i was tempted to watch the film at some point, but i don’t think i can be bothered, now!

  2. Keri B. says:

    Hmm … this has been on my to-read list … maybe I’ll push it back a few places (or remove it altogether).

  3. Pingback: TTT: Wish I’d DNF’d | Marvel At Words

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