Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

I'm finally back from Tokyo! I had such a great time with my little brother and one of my very best friends--we visited temples, played in arcades, tried traditional dishes, drank with the locals, and so much more! It was so fun exploring the cities and meeting people, but I am glad to be home with my family.

Even though I'm still suffering from jet lag and a slight cold, I couldn't leave you guys hanging any longer! Between the super-long flights and all the time spent commuting on the trains, I was able to finish three books during my vacation. I even found an English bookstore in Gotanda, Japan, and bought two more for 800 yen (about $10).

The first novel I read was The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, which was published by MTV in 1999. Chbosky is also known for writing the screenplay for "Rent" and the TV show "Jericho." I'll admit that the only reason why I picked up this book was because I was intrigued by the film adaptation starring Emma Watson, but I'm glad I saw what all the fuss was about.

Perks is written in the forms of letters by a high school freshman who goes by the alias Charlie. He writes these letters to a person he doesn't know, but was told by a friend that he/she was a good listener. The lack of physical descriptions of Charlie and many other characters creates a relatable atmosphere.

Taking place in Pittsburgh in the early '90s, Charlie befriends two step-siblings: Patrick, who has a secret romance with the high school quarterback, and Sam, who instantly becomes Charlie's love interest. As high school seniors, the siblings show Charlie the world of drugs and rock & roll, all while he struggles with much deeper issues.

I won't reveal the reason behind Charlie's introversion, but I found his character simultaneously interesting and annoying. His juvenile writing style and general naivete make him seem much more than simply shy, to the point of mentally challenged. However, he's also extremely clever, voraciously reading classic novels given to him by his endearing English teacher Bill. I wouldn't even be surprised if Charlie was an autistic savant.

Regardless, I appreciate the author's decision to leave the question of Charlie's condition open-ended. I'll only say that his constant choppy sentences and simple vocabulary became tiring and grating at times. But at least the book shows the reader why it's difficult for Charlie to make and keep friends, and I applaud Sam and Patrick for showing such compassion.

My only other major complaint is that Chbosky, in an attempt to address teen social issues, piles on so much melodrama that you can't help but roll your eyes sometimes. I mean, in the first 50 pages, you witness depression, suicide, domestic violence, drug abuse, and homophobia.

I'm not saying that one person can't experience all these horrific things, but I felt that Chbosky was laying it on a bit thick. It was as if he was just checking them off a list rather than truly addressing their impact. And from what I hear, he suffered from the same problem in "Rent."

All in all, I imagine that the movie will definitely be indie, and since stories with so much "reality" in them aren't really my cup of tea (I like my happy endings, thank you very much), I'll just have to watch it with an open mind. Who knows? Maybe I'll like Charlie and friends better on the big screen.