Overall Impression: Arrrrrggg! *yanks on hair* Everything about this book was so irritating, irritating, irritating! I have never found a book with so much potential, that falls so flat.
Eeeeshh. I was so disappointed with this book. I feel like I’m the only person on the planet that doesn’t like it! I’ve read so many good reviews, and pretty much everyone I know who has read it thought it was fantastic. But honestly? Meh. Maybe it’s because of all the hype around the book. After all, I even got out a sheet of paper in expectation that there would be loads of great quotes to mark. But it really did sound like a great book, the kind I usually enjoy.
But hey, on the plus side I absolutely love the front cover! That’s a positive right? :S I have a weird appreciation for purposeful scribbling and doodling.
This book was also read as part of the The Rory Gilmore Challenge.
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 unchartered 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 sidelines 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 blurb pretty much sums it up. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming of age story centred around a young boy. The book begins with Charlie’s first day as a freshman as he tries to get over the death of his sort-of friend Michael. He shuffles through everyday life observing, but not really taking part, hence – wallflower. That is, until he meets Sam and Patrick two unusual third years with a thirst for life. They lead him into a world of drugs, sex, alcohol, but most importantly friendship. A coming of age story of emotional discovery.
If I’m honest, I‘m really struggling to find anything to write about this book. I keep opening this blog post only to shut it again confounded.
The writing style irritated the hell out of me, and I think this was one of many reasons I didn’t like this book. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an epistolary novel, aka it is made up of a set of letters written by our lead character, Charlie, to a mysterious unknown peer. Charlie for me, has the most frustrating narrative voice I have ever come across. He has the potential to be so great and unique but it just doesn’t work. The prose are painfully simple and jarring, they don’t flow well at all. There’s a disconnect somewhere along the way. He just grated on me throughout the entire novel, I hated his simplified way of viewing things. Chbosky makes all these comments that are supposed to be insightful, but with the exception of one they all felt so contrived to me. And not only contrived but unrealistic too, so none of them really hit me with that ‘wow’ feeling. When I’ve read quotes alienated from the book itself on the internet, they come across so much better. But when they are part of the text? They just made me cringe. The only one I came across that really resonated with me was:
‘We accept the love we think we deserve’.
This one did stick with me and will be added to my list of favourite quotes, in fact this is probably one of the only reasons the book isn’t getting 1/5.
Maybe it’s just my inner Psychologist at work, but here is an example of a passage that annoyed me:
”Do you always think that much Charlie?”
”Is that bad?”
”Not necessarily. It’s just that sometimes people use thought not to participate in life.”
This irritating generalization had me mentally screaming. NO. That is not why people think, analyze and observe others a lot instead of participating themselves. It is so much more complex than that, and how dare you attempt to simplify it. Ummpphh! It just frustrated me so much! And I kept hitting constant simplifications of the human condition that made me want to toss the book across the room. Literally. I rarely have a gut reaction this negative towards a book. I get that we are supposed to be seeing it through the eyes of someone younger, but being confronted with so many irritating assumptions like this that I completely disagreed with resulted in me getting really annoyed.
Yet another thing that grated on me with the writing was the constant need for name dropping famous authors. Why? Seriously? No bearing on the plot whatsoever. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of intertextuality, when it’s done well it can make you feel all ‘ohh hey, I get that reference. Check me out being all intelligent and stuffz’. But in this case? No. It was blatant, showy and done with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Although I’ll give Chbosky this, it’s easy enough reading.
The plot? Also incredibly irritating. It felt as if Chbosky tried to squish into this novel every single coming of age situation a teenager could possibly go through; sex, alcohol, drugs, insecurity, sexuality and unrequited love to name a few. It got to the point where it just became utterly ridiculous and unrealistic. Again, it made me want to throw the book across the room. It was just too much. Maybe if Chbosky had focused on a few of these adolescent events and zoned in on them in more detail, the book could have been a lot more effective. But as it stands for me personally, it just didn’t work.
Unfortunately, the characters couldn’t save this book for me either. Once again I found them contrived, and they felt more like caricatures than real people. Charlie cries more than any normal person on the planet, even when taking into account what we find out at the end of the book. We are constantly told he is ‘special’ without any proof that he actually is and he is so dysfunctional he comes across more autistic than socially awkward and psychologically damaged. I get the impression our lead female Sam is supposed to be vibrant, interesting and bold but to be honest I just found her a bit strange. She doesn’t act or react like a normal human being and although I’m sure the author would justify this through Sam’s past experiences, again I didn’t feel the two matched up. Patrick is a little more believable as a character, but I still didn’t really form any attachment to him. The only character I felt was believable was Mary Elizabeth, I would have much preferred a book on her! I suppose the letter format of the story could have hindered the character development, because we view Sam and Patrick the way Charlie perceives them to be, rather than how they actually are. But I still feel if this book was written in the normal format, I still wouldn’t have connected with them.
I honestly wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone, because I didn’t enjoy it at all. So, instead I’m going to point you in the direction of several other reviewers who loved this book that I follow and truly respect the opinion of, because it seems that I am missing something about this book that others have really enjoyed, and I hate the idea of potentially putting people off a book that they might love! So:
“I think that perhaps what makes this book special is its slow progression. Yes some dramatic stuff happens but it’s not overdone. It’s perfectly written and the characters are perfectly flawed as well as perfectly developed. The end is not an end, it highlights that this is just a snippet of the boy’s life.” –anyonething
“Charlie’s simple, matter-of-fact statements, his way of seeing the world, of sitting back and letting things happen, of moving through life in a kind of unclear daze while at the same time cutting through the ridiculousness of the world with extreme clarity – all of that really sticks with you” – thoughtsonmybookshelf
“This is one of the very few truly truthful and honest books I’ve ever read, and that’s something I think very highly of in a novel. I don’t exactly know what makes a book honest, but it’s one of those things you know when you read it.” – Novel Journeys
Have you read The Perks of Being a Wallflower? Did you enjoy it or were you left mystified like me? I would love to hear your thoughts on this one! 😀
Writing Style: 1/5
Character Development: 2/5
Would I recommend this book? No.
P.S. Also, although I didn’t like the novel, the film still looks amazing. and ten times better as they seem to have made quite a few changes!
Book Cover: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4327066-the-perks-of-being-a-wallflower