You know how some weeks you need a breath of fresh air? Some weeks you need tried and true recycled air.
“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”
Perks of Being a Wallflower is very special to me. Sure it’s a bit schmaltzy it places and a bit “get off my lawn” in others but overall this book is always a safe space where I can return year after year. I’ve read Perks half a dozen times, probably more, and it’s one of my favorite books. I’m actually on my second copy because my first copy was a used copy from Half Price Books and was close to falling apart before I even got to it. I haven’t read Perks since my first Cannonball in 2014 where, due to a glitch in the system on the day I wrote it, my review actually got deleted.
So here is my review:
Charlie, who struggles with some sort of social anxiety and depressive issues, is entering high school. He is writing to an unknown “friend” because he doesn’t have any friends himself after his best friend has killed himself a few months prior to the events of this story.
Charlie is very smart but very inside his own head; he befriends his English teacher who gives him different books than the rest of the class and special assignments. During football season Charlie decides to go to a game alone where he sees Patrick, a boy in his wood-shop class, and they, along with Patrick’s step-sister Sam, strike up a friendship. Through his relationship with Patrick and Sam, Charlie begins to find himself .
“We accept the love we think we deserve.”
Charlie is so earnest it hurts but this works for the story more than it works against it. Tough topics like sexual abuse, domestic violence and death sink into your subconscious through an osmosis-type of effect and the honest approach to homosexuality in high school is also well handled. In a way, Charlie’s naivety makes some of the more difficult story lines easier to swallow, perhaps because his lack of understanding leads to a lack of difficult details.
I know this isn’t a perfect book, a love-it or hate-it with no in-between, but it found me at the right time in my life and I will always cherish it.
Things I rediscovered this time around: the book is set in 1991. I don’t know how this fact escaped me so many times (the date is at the top of each letter) but I always deeply associated this book with the early ’00s. Perhaps because that’s when I was first reading it.
“Downtown. Lights on buildings and everything that makes you wonder. And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”