the perks of being a wallflower

Interesting cover, interesting title. This book first caught my attention at a book sale a long time ago, but I only thought about reading it after Gian waved his copy in front of me, some days before he showed me after the quake. Being an envious reader, I borrowed both from the Rizal Library and started the first one halfway through The Passion. (Just in time, too: the film’s coming out in 2012, with Emma Watson playing Sam/Samantha.)

Stephen Chbosky’s the perks of being a wallflower is an epistolary novel made up of a year’s worth of letters from Charlie, a socially awkward teenager afraid of beginning his high school freshman year. Addressed to an unknown “friend,” the letters reveal the author to be a gifted, thoughtful yet extremely shy individual caught between the new, dizzying world of adolescence and a past that seems unwilling to let him move forward.

It’s been a while since I last held a book that’s this easy to read. The first time I cracked it open, I didn’t stop until I was almost half done with it. I couldn’t put it down; Charlie was too endearing to leave. Having been a wallflower all his life, he has grown used to watching things from the sidelines and making observations instead of “participating.” But despite the isolation it presumes, this vantage point allows him to see more than the ordinary person. He make casual revelations that are telling not only of the person being described but also of the one doing the describing, Charlie himself.

I enjoyed the first two sections of this book, but towards the middle it started to feel a little like just a lot of complaints in life: I’m so alone, nobody notices me. “Not everyone has a sob story, Charlie, and even if they do, it’s no excuse,” says the main character’s father. Ironically the novel’s plot itself reveals a reliance on too many unfortunate incidents—the exact stuff that make up “sob stories” (I’d make a list, but I don’t want to spoil it for anybody). At one point the tone made me want to put the book down and take a breather, but I still plowed through that chapter, almost willing it to get better. And it did; things picked up again near the end, and I at least closed the book with some sense of fulfillment.

…what’s the point of using words nobody else knows or can say comfortably?

‘…we accept the love we think we deserve.’

I don’t know if you’ve ever felt like that. That you wanted to sleep for a thousand years. Or just not exist. Or just not be aware that you do exist.

And all the books you’ve read have been read by other people. And all the songs you’ve loved have been heard by other people. And that girl that’s pretty to you is pretty to other people. And you know that if you looked at these facts when you were happy, you would feel great because you are describing ‘unity.’

Something really is wrong with me. And I don’t know what it is.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me. It’s like all I can do is keep writing this gibberish to keep from breaking apart.

So I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there.

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