“I really think everyone should have watercolors, magnetic poetry, and a harmonica.”
It’s a beautiful sentiment, isn’t it? I don’t know why something that seems so small and insignificant had such an impact on me, but this simple idea turned circles in my head until it had found a home, and I just couldn’t stop thinking about. Shouldn’t everyone have watercolors, magnetic poetry, and a harmonica? Why not?
And that’s pretty much the whole of Stephen Chbosky’s coming-of-age classic, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It’s full of insights that seem small but instantly take root in even the most uninterested reader.
I’ll admit, this is one of the few times in my life where I read a book after seeing the film, though in my defense the film was showing on my transatlantic flight from Toronto to Zurich last January, and I just couldn’t resist an Emma Watson flick during those long and very cold hours. The movie captured me within minutes, and never let me go – I laughed hysterically, I cried into my Air Canada pillow, and I was, like many other readers and/or movie-goers, shocked by the twists and turns. So of course I knew I wanted to read the book.
I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to it, but I’m glad I finally did. You see, I’ve never in my life been called a wallflower. In fact, if I’m a flower at all, I’m probably like a venus flytrap or something (because I lure in people I like and refuse to let go… and I sometimes bite, but only sometimes) or some other ridiculous flower that thrives on never shutting up (maybe I’m Audrey II… Little Shop of Horrors reference anyone?).
But I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Sometimes, I can be a wallflower too. I know, I know – shocking; but it’s true. I have problems getting to know new people, especially in large groups where I don’t know anyone at all. It’s one of the many reasons I don’t go to parties, because when I used to I’d always end up sitting in a back room reading a book rather than trying to “mingle” or whatever. I avoided any social function where I didn’t know at least 90% of the attendees all through high school, and rather than admit that I just get nervous I preferred to act like I thought those activities were “lame.” Now that I’m older (and oh so much more mature) I make myself talk to new people, and I usually make up for how nervous I am (and all the blushing that inevitably entails) by talking even more and even faster than I usually do. That’s my way of coping with that outsider feeling that I think everyone feels now and again.
It was interesting to be able to read a book that really captures the inside of a true-blue outsider, and reading Charlie’s letters is fascinating and absorbing. That being said, the lack of contractions was jarring at first, and even though I eventually felt like it fit the character, I still found myself contracting all the words in my head just to get through them.
But what Perks loses in style it certainly makes up for in punch. There are so many great lines that stood out to me. Of course there’s the very famous one, “You accept the love you think you deserve.” But another that felt close to home for me (I’ve fallen for this trick so many times I should have this advice on a freaking plaque by my door so I see it every time I leave the house): “Not everyone has a sob story, and even if they do it’s not an excuse.” Amen to that, Chbosky. Amen.
And so many lines speak to everyone I think. Who hasn’t felt “both happy and sad” and had to try to “figure out how that could be?” And what young person, nay, what adult even, hasn’t had to come to the hard realization that “life doesn’t stop for anybody?”
There’s a reason that Perks is known in YA circles as a classic; there’s a reason they made it into a damn good film; there’s a reason that you should go and read it.
What’s the reason, you ask?
I think you should have to come to it on your own, because that’s one of the funny things about books – they always mean something different to everyone.
Overall Reaction: O.O Whoa. What just happened?
Up Next Week: Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
I think we’re on a roll, so I’m going to read one of the only other books that I haven’t read even though I saw (and adored) the film. See you then!