marginalia || The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

I’ve heard so much about The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, it’s one of those books that people constantly recommend with praises galore. But I’ve never been keen on picking it up, not even when I had a roommate who gave me free reign to rummage through her stacks of well-loved books, this one among them.

When the university library reopened on the sixteenth (HALLELUJAH), I spent about two hours in the fiction section, reacquainting myself, trying to spot new acquisitions. When I saw the slim volume wedged between two musty books, well, why not?


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.

I read it in one sitting, and every chapter or so, I’d put the book down to say, “Dammit, this is a nice book.”

A nice book. Hm. Yes, I like this novel, I do. It didn’t change my life (why must we have such high expectations of our reading material?), but it made me smile a couple of times, and it made me want to cry because I believed in Charlie. Reading it, I was struck by how strongly I rooted for Charlie to survive just that year with the least heartache. I admired how sensitive he was, how “non-participant” his ways were. I wanted Charlie to be my friend, and I wanted to be that “friend” Charlie wrote all those letters to (and yes, by reading the novel, I suppose I already am, already became so).

I like this book not because it makes my own hellish high school experience pale by comparison–I like this book because, well, it allowed me to think that everyone has a hellish high school experience, and we’re all thinking that this is the hellish high school experience. As Charlie himself likes to believe. Contrary to what Charlie’s dad reprimanded him with, that not everyone had a sad story.

I so disagree, Mr. Charlie’s Dad–it’s just that the Sad Story is very much in the telling, in how you actually attempt to make some stranger gasp just before a telltale sob–or, more precisely, in Charlie’s case, how you don’t even try.

[A little nitpicking, though: What do I feel about that whole detail/issue about Aunt Helen, a ginormous revelation at the end of the book? The one about those nights in front of the television? Well, I don’t think all that was necessary. I am inclined to think that Charlie’s Charlie, regardless of those familial tragedies, forgotten or not. Thing is, to nitpick at this novel is like throwing pebbles at a lame baby bunny.]

At the end of the book, well, I was already thinking how, somewhere, there’s a 24-year-old Charlie with a book in his hands. I hope he’s okay. He’s assured us that he is, though, that “things are good with me, and even when they’re not, they will be soon enough.”

Take care, Charlie.

3 thoughts on “marginalia || The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky


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