Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Steven 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 mix 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 he 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.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

My Review:  I debated about reviewing this book.  It’s gritty and haunting and disturbing, and frankly, the longer I thought about it, the angrier I got at the peripheral characters in the book.

I’ve deleted the paragraph I’ve been trying to type multiple times, because it’s so hard to accurately critique the book.  Chbosky has written his protagonist in an extremely stereotypical way – utterly, sometimes mindlessly, naïve, obnoxiously gullible, apparently incapable of making a sane or rational decision, all to the point that it became grossly offensive.  I had a hard time taking it seriously because it was so overdone.  I remember high school fairly well, and while my naivety was the butt of many jokes, I could grasp right from wrong. 

What has really upset me, however, was how clueless Charlie’s parents are.  Their son develops a habit of chain smoking, comes home high, drunk, experimenting with LSD, and reeking of cigarettes, and the only thing they do is invite the influencers over for dinner?! No words of warning, no trying to parent--truly, how clueless can a parent be?!  It worried me that teenagers wanting to dabble in all things baseless and deadly may view this as perfectly acceptable.  It made me want to hug my own Charlie, never let him out of my sight, and move my family to a personal island completely cut off from society—except for a library, of course.

I abhorred the story because it was so overdone, so extreme, so self contradictory it became completely unbelievable.  I loathed the characters, was upset at myself for reading such a morally bankrupt book; however, I must admit that his writing style is beautifully haunting.  It surprised me how quickly I finished this book … or perhaps that was because how many scenes I had to skip.  Hmmm.

Months Later:  I read this at a very dark and trying personal time, and I didn't even think about it being a banned book.  I just wanted to see what all the hype was about.  I can't help but think now that the anger and betrayal I felt toward the characters was perhaps what Chbosky hoped to dredge to the surface - a recognition that we are indeed responsible to help those around us, however uncomfortable that may make us.  As for me, I hope to teach my kids that lesson.  Myself, and now, before they're irreparably damaged by those who are so lost they don't know which way is up.

Sum it up:  A coming-of-age story set in the ‘90s, detailing the perils of high school at the height of the Grunge Era. 

My Rating:  One star.  It's just too stereotypical, so much so it lost the punch and made the whole thing unbelievable. 

For the Sensitive Reader:  Run, run as fast as you can!  Sex, drugs, alcohol, and lots of all of them, anonymous homosexual trysts, and repressed memories of childhood molestation.


MindySue said...

Great review, Elizabeth! It's difficult to review a book you don't like in a constructive way, but you did just fine!

Manday said...

You know, I had a similar (though not quite as drastic) review of this book. I didn't find it all that realistic. I read it a few years ago, maybe 2010? The funny part is, when the movie recently came out, I was all excited because in my memory I liked the book, it was only when I went back to my review I realized I hadn't. How odd. And I did enjoy the movie. I think your review is pretty accurate.


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