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Grimes & Rowe Read a Book: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

By Storycarnivores @storycarnivores

Grimes & Rowe Read a Book: The Perks of Being a WallflowerTitle: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Author: Stephen Chbosky
Series: N/A
Publisher: MTV Books
Publish Date: February 1, 1999
Genre: YA Contemporary
Pages: 213
Source: Bought
Buy the Book: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Description: Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being a Wallflower. This is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up. (via Goodreads)

Shaunta: Imagine if Leigh Botts (boy) from Beverly Cleary’s amazing Dear Mr Henshaw
moved on from elementary school to high school and started writing letters to a stranger he calls ‘friend’ instead of his favorite author. That’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. A deep look inside someone, from their own point of view, in their own words. Written as a series of letters that clearly show change and growth.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is such a weird little book. Last night I was halfway through, and I told Brian that I couldn’t read anymore. I had no real reason why, I just felt stuck. But then I picked it up again, and got through a few more pages. And the next thing I knew, it was 2 a.m. and I’d read to the end. And then it seeped into my dreams.

Brian: I felt the same way as you, Shaunta. I spent a few days reading the first 100 pages, then I read the second 100 pages in one sitting. I don’t know if it was the “letter” structure of the book that I needed to get used to, but once I got settled with these characters and all these stories, I wanted to see how they all would end. I actually read Perks of Being a Wallflower a few years ago. My first boyfriend gave it to me and told me I had to read it pronto. I remember enjoying it but it didn’t really move me way back when. I don’t know if I’ve just matured a little bit, or if I’m just smarter, but I got a lot more out of the book this time. I wouldn’t say I loved it, but I really, really liked it.

Shaunta: Charlie’s favorite teacher thinks he’s a genius. Maybe he is, but his age is all wrong–who turns 16 in the 9th grade? And what 15-year-old boy needs to be introduced to masturbation? I think the book finally came together for me when I accepted that Charlie is probably somewhere on the autism spectrum. He can’t play sports, because he gets too aggressive, he didn’t speak until he was three, he cries easily, he struggles with comprehending other people’s emotions. He’s so desperate to please, but usually has no clue how to do it. I have an teenage son with Asperger’s syndrome, and I saw so much of Nick in Charlie.

Brian: I never really read Charlie as having any sort of condition, but I do think that needs to be addressed considering what happens to the character in the epilogue. There’s a lot of Catcher in the Rye in this book–the ending made me think of J.D. Salinger’s famous novel especially–and Charlie is like a shyer, more delicate and innocent version of Holden Caulfield. It takes him forever to figure things out. We know he loves Sam, for instance, but he never acts on it, just because when he first meets her, she tells him not to think of her “that way.” He’s too scared to act on his feelings, and he  has to take to his pen and paper to work out the emotions that are boiling beneath the surface.

Shaunta: Okay, I’m going to tell a story that no one else knows. (Now everyone will know!) When I was 15, I called a wrong number. A man answered and for whatever reason we talked for like an hour. My family life was falling apart, and I was having a particularly hard day. So when this stranger asked if I was okay, the dam broke and I spilled out all kinds of things I couldn’t tell anyone else. He told me I could call him again, if I wanted to. I did. Not often, but sometimes, for two years. (I swear, I don’t know how I survived to become an adult.) When I was reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I identified strongly with Charlie’s need to share things with someone who wouldn’t judge him and had no way of really impacting his life.

I think that I struggled through some of the book because I identified so hard with Charlie. Some of it was really hard to read. But I can see why The Perks of Being a Wallflower is so well loved. I can see why, even though it is 13 years old, used copies on Amazon cost nearly the same as a new copy. Why it’s being re-released in hardback by Simon and Schuster next month.

Brian: Yeah, when we interviewed John Corey Whaley recently here at Story Carnivores about his book Where Things Come Back, I asked him what three books he would bring with him to a desert island, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of them. This book isn’t just a great YA read, it really has changed people. It’s a wonderful book, and I can’t wait to see the movie. I have to admit in reading the book this time I did picture Emma Watson every time I read about Sam. But you know what? It actually enhanced the read, because Emma is perfect casting for this role. I can’t wait!

Shaunta: Stephen Chbosky wrote and directed the screenplay version of this book (amazing trailer above,) which releases in September. I can’t wait to see it. (Emma Watson!) He also wrote the movie version of Rent. But most importantly, he was the creator and an executive producer of Jericho, one of my top three television shows of all time.

I loved this book. I loved the very-early 1990s setting. I graduated high school in 1989, and I loved being taken back to that time period. The music references were killer. I think you have to have lived in the late-80s, early-90s to understand how important the house phone was back then, when cell phones were the size of garden bricks and cost the Earth. And how essential mix tapes were. I can remember spending hours (hours!) in front of my stereo, waiting for just the right song to come on so I could grab it on cassette. I loved the Rocky Horror Picture Show references. The scene where Charlie dresses up in a gold-painted Speedo and plays Rocky was brilliant. I fell in love with both Patrick and Sam. This book was full of people I want to know. I liked that Charlie clearly has some kind of emotional issue, or is on the autistic spectrum, or something, but that no label is put on it. Lastly, I love any book where books play a big role.

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