Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

"Do you always think this much, Charlie?"
"Is that bad?"
"Not necessarily. It's just that sometimes people use thought to not participate in life."
"Is that bad?"

Stephen Chbosky's book had been on my list for quite some time before I finally picked it up and read it. I had heard about it from several people, but usually only in passing. It wasn’t a book that people held in front of me and said, “Read this now!” I think that’s why it took so long for me to finally read it.

First of all, I can be a bit of a wallflower myself and don’t always participate in life as much as I should. I love watching people, thinking about why they do what they do, wondering what they might be thinking, and trying to figure out their stories. So, in many ways, I was able to relate to Charlie, the quiet, mostly passive, introverted, and book-loving protagonist.

Second of all, this book is witty, clever, funny, happy, sad, and engaging. It is a brilliant, wonderful mix of all sorts of elements that make this book spectacular.

Finally, this book is one I know I will read many more times. I feel that it is one of those books that can be enjoyed and loved more and more with each read. I think there are more layers than can be uncovered with just one reading. And Charlie would agree.

It is interesting that all we know about Charlie is from his perspective. We know about him only what he knows. The book is set up in letter format. But the letters are extremely personal, well written, and extremely interesting. Through them, we see Charlie grow as he experiences his first year of high school, meets people, makes friends, falls in love, and makes mistakes. At the same time, it’s not a typical story of growth because the only growth we see is what Charlie notices about himself. The more he comes to know himself and define himself, the more the reader gets to know Charlie and develops a deeper relationship with him. He’s a 15 year old boy that we can all relate to (even girls) because his experiences are those that resonate with many of us.

The book contains references to and mentions classic books and wonderful music. To me, that just went to show how important books and music are to our lives. They inspire us, influence us, and teach us. They spark emotions and make us think. And, each book Charlie reads is a book that he can take something away from. He learns, not only from the book, but he learns from reading the book. The experience of reading is something important to him. And that’s something that was important in the reading of this book too. It wasn’t just the story that had an impact, but the actual reading of this book. Perks is a book that you find yourself feeling a part of. You aren’t just a spectator—you are Charlie’s friend. You are the one he is writing to.

Each great book should leave you with something. One should close the book, sit back, and continue thinking on that book. That was the experience I had with this book, and it instantly became a favorite (and not just because it’s the most recent on I read). It became a favorite because there is so much to think about, to take away from it. It’s inspirational, but not in an overpowering way. It’s subtle and beautiful and powerful. It can be healing. It makes me want to really live life, enjoy every minute.

Most of all, though, this book makes me want to get in my car, roll the windows down, turn the music up, drive, be one with the night, and just feel infinite.

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