Tuesday, July 9, 2013

'Perks of Being a Wallflower' by Stephen Chbosky

Official Summary:
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a story about what it’s like to travel that strange course through the uncharted territory of high school. The world of first dates, family dramas, and new friends. Of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Of those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

Once a week a friend and I leave our desks just long enough to drive down to Starbucks and order incredibly high-calorie drinks smothered in whip cream and gossip. Sometimes it's work related, but most of the time we just talk about movies we've seen recently or television shows worth checking out. This last time we went out he insisted that I watch the movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower. His recommendations have yet to let me down, so when he said that it was the first film he'd watched in awhile that made him feel like he'd actually watched a moving piece of cinema, I couldn't help but check it out when I'd finally meandered back to my desk.

Unsurprisingly, the movie was based on this book of the same name and with a quick Amazon 1-click it was ready and waiting at home on the Kindle. If I'm presented with an awesome movie or the awesome book that movie was based on, I'll choose the book every time. So that night, immediately after I'd eaten, cooked and cleaned up dinner, I sat down and started reading.

The first thing to mention is that Perks is an incredibly quick read. From cover to cover it only took about three hours. The second is that the backdrop for this coming of age story is high school in the early 1990's. Having been in high school during roughly the same time period as the characters in this book, and having lived through a lot of the same uniquely '90's moments (Rocky Horror Picture Show anyone?) which made reading this book similar to flipping through a photo album filled with people and places you thought you'd forgotten about.

Because of that association, the story lingered with me, not so much because of the thought provoking content. I mean, let's be honest here, I'm a little old to do much more than reminisce over the kinds of issues complicating Charlie's life.

Bottom Line: While other reviewers seem to either love Perks by Stephen Chbosky for it's accessible, character driven narrative, or hate it because they don't identify with Charlie, the time period, the catchphrase (see left) or all of the above, I think it would be a wonderful summer reading title for kids going into their freshman year. Not just because that's the age of the narrator, but because it seems like time well spent helping these kids prepare for a complicated new phase of life filled with dating, drugs and drama. To boil it down further, if you're not either A: a Gen X'er or B: transitioning into high school, you'll probably have a tough time understanding this one and might have better luck elsewhere.

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