It’s Tuesday already! Usually, the worst day of the week, but today it’s not so bad as it is a day closer to Friday because of the holiday yesterday. I am pushing through my moods and trying to really appreciate what I have. I had sunshine for the last week, I got a good tan this weekend at the beach, we have HUGE steaks (thanks pop!) in the broiler right now, I have some whiskey in my system and I am so lucky in so many other ways. I just have to trust that everything is going to work out the way it is supposed to. So – with the sound of sizzling meat in the oven, I thought I would crank out my thoughts on the second book I read so far this year, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Now that I have read this book, I am hearing from most of my friends that they have read it when they were younger and loved it, but as we all know – I didn’t read when I was younger, so the time is now. Ready?
I told you that I asked all my friends for their favorite (or one of their top 3) book(s) of all time. So, when each book lands at my doorstep, I take it very seriously and I almost feel like someone has just handed me a piece of their soul. So, let me start this off by saying that this book was loaned to me by someone I hold in very high regard. Someone who I know has so many parallels to my own being – we have very similar taste, life experiences and thoughts. There was a casual mention of this book the last time I saw my friend and I mentioned that I think I had seen the movie, but I am told, for the most part, that books are always better than the movies that portray them. So, even though I think I had luke warm feelings about the movie, I was intrigued by the book, but even more by my friend’s adoration for it. The book came with a casually written post-it that read “I hope you love this book as much as I did, it will suck you right in and change you”.
The book opens in the style that it keeps the whole way through. It starts with “Dear Friend,” and proceeds with stories delivered via a letter to an anonymous person (I thought writing this post in the same vein, calling the person who loaned it to me “Friend” and leaving him/her anonymous, would be fun). It is told from the perspective of the main character, a 15-year-old high school freshman who has just experienced a major loss, his name is, Charlie. He is someone who I think everyone who reads this book can identify with in some regard. He is emotional, he is vulnerable, he struggles with anxiety, he wants to belong and have friends and fall in love. The description could be talking about any of us, regardless of social status, in school, right? Charlie was different in many ways than people I thought I knew in school. He was emotional and not really able to hold it back, he wanted to belong, but not in the traditional sense, he didn’t believe in a false exterior to make people like you more, he believed in being genuine. He wanted friends, but did not want to be the popular kid in school, he just wanted the people he thought were special to reciprocate the sentiment. I liked him. I felt a connection to him right away. I wanted to hug him and tell him that “Everything was going to be okay”. I was in his corner from the beginning.
The book progresses and introduces you to Charlie’s family and its casual dysfunction, a teacher of Charlie’s that is a mentor, not only in academia, but in life and introductions are made to new friends that become the center of Charlie’s freshman year of high school as well as his educators on surviving his teenage years. Charlie also goes into his history on events that have shaped his fragile existence. We hear snippets of pretty horrible incidents that he has been witness to and you feel the seriousness of a lot of these situations and start to realize that Charlie is a lot more resilient and strong than he originally appears. He became, to me at least, a sort of hero and a sign of hope.
While reading this book, I was fondly reminiscing on my life in my last two years in high school, I was reminded for my love of the Rocky Horror Picture Show and how I started a club with my friend to talk all things RHPS. I remembered a zine that the same friend and I started that concentrated on music, poetry and art. I thought about my first experiences getting drunk, the first time I fell in love, the first time I felt heartbreak, times that I surprised myself with my courage, the first time I formed opinions that I wasn’t willing to compromise and all the awkwardness of being in high school came rushing right back. It was cathartic in a sense, as I hadn’t thought about a lot of those feelings and memories in a really long time. The trip down memory lane was intense and satisfying.
The thing that surprised me most about this book, and maybe made me glad that I read it at the ripe age of 32, was that I didn’t just insert myself in the rousing of high school happenings, but I realized that there were so many lines I could draw connecting my current self to most of the characters in the book. The feeling of longing for something that you prematurely got used to, the idea that you may be more invested in something than you realized, the excitement of feeling like you belong to something “infinite”, the fear of outwardly showing how you are feeling on the inside, the helplessness you feel when your mind starts to think too much and you can’t tell it to stop, the curiosity and eagerness to learn and experience new things and also the need to say “Yes” and accommodate everyone you come in contact with, even at the sacrifice of your own true happiness or comfort. This sounds so somber, but it actually made me happy. Like when your therapist makes you calm down because you are one in a million people who feel the way you do and are experiencing the same thing. You feel a sense of sameness and comfort, but also see that though Charlie struggles and hits bottom, as do his friends, they always rise above it with acceptance and understanding. They meet each other with a smile, optimism and compassion. I am not sure how much this book changed me, but I keep thinking about it even though I finished it 5 days ago, so maybe time will tell, stay tuned.
I tried not to give too much of it away, though, I am sure most of you have read it already. Even if you have read it before, I urge you to read it again, as an adult. Maybe you will get something more out of it. It is short and an easy read. DO IT.
I also want to make mention of one of the best parts of the book – the playlist that Charlie makes in the book. I love that the author exposes you to every detail of music playing throughout. They are all familiar songs, some that may not have been my favorite, but have new meaning for me now. From the Smiths, to the Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana – find my Spotify playlist entitled: The Perks and you will find every song mentioned in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Listen to it while you read the book, it was fabulous. Also a good soundtrack for reading this book is not chronologically a match, but set the mood, anything by FUTURE ISLANDS. Try it – I promise, you won’t be disappointed.
Thanks to my friend who introduced me to this, we will talk about it, at length, someday soon.
Alright everyone, time to scoop myself a little Thrifty’s Rainbow Sherbert and wind down for the evening. My next Book Report will be on The Alchemist. Can you believe I am such a reader now? Fucking never thought it would happen. Loving it! Until next time…