Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Stephen Chbosky: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Charlie is a high school freshman, and while he’s not a complete geek, he’s not exactly popular either. Although highly intelligent, he is shy and socially awkward, behaving like a wallflower as he stands by and watches everyone else living their lives without doing much with his own. As Charlie tries to steer his way through the twist and turns of teenage life – life that includes first dates, mix tapes, family dramas and new friends – he realises that he can’t be a wallflower forever. He needs to get up off the bleachers and figure out what life is really like on the dance floor.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a modern, coming of age drama, featuring a talented young cast that includes Logan Lerman, (Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief) Emma Watson (The Harry Potter Series) and Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries). The movie has been a real hit with both audiences and critics, raking in a cool $17million and scooping up several awards.
But now let’s forget about the movie. You may have already seen it. The real question is: have you read the book? Written in 1999 by Stephen Chbosky, original reviews were mixed. Teenagers loved it but adults hated it. Why? Because it focuses on some big issues – mainly sex and drugs – and teenagers shouldn’t be reading about such scandalous things, right? One thing is for sure, this review isn’t mixed. Chbosky’s book is a work of genius.
The story is told from the point of view of Charlie, through a series of letters he writes to an unknown ‘Friend’. Charlie is intelligent, shy, and incredibly socially awkward, but this doesn’t stop him from being a character that both a teenager and an adult who’s been through the same problems, can relate to. Charlie experiences a lot of ‘firsts’ that include his first party, first alcoholic drink, and his first girlfriend (whom he doesn’t actually like) and his accounts of these experiences are witty, heart-breaking, and truthful, accompanied by all the inexperienced naivety that you expect from a teenager. Chbosky has captured an honest portrayal of youth, and he shouldn’t receive anything but praise for doing so. He’s given us everything we could possibly want: comedy, drama, tears and joy, and even the stereotypical wise, Yoda-like teacher (who is excellent for some classic book recommendations, if you’re interested). 

Don’t just watch the movie. Read the book. It doesn’t take long to read – one, because it’s quite short and two, because it’s so compelling that you’ll probably read it in a single sitting like I did (there’s a possibility you’ll be tired the following morning but the  journey is worth it). By the end you’ll be wishing you were part of Charlie’s gang too. 

Rating: *****

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