This book needs a hug.
Charlie is a freshman in high school. He writes letters to a friend that we don’t know about, like a diary, filled with wry observations on his life and what’s going on in it. The entire book is in letter form—we never get a reply from his friend—and is filled with raw emotion, in what I imagine to be Charlie’s matter-of-fact, possibly even slightly monotone—but always honest—passive voice.
At first, Charlie doesn’t have any friends. He is a little weird—even weirder than the cool kind of weird—and it’s a bit hard for him to fit in. He makes friends with two seniors, Patrick and Sam, and begins to experience life, sometimes without really trying.
I first heard of this book when it was released and kept meaning to read it, not realising, ten years later, that I would be determined to read it because they’ve made it into a movie! I thought it would be a typical coming of age book, and I expected to be caught up and be able to relate to the story, because who hasn’t felt like a wallflower sometimes—on the outside looking in? It was a lot more than I expected.
For one thing, it’s actually quite a serious book. There are serious undertones beyond just the typical teenage drama of boys, clothes, girls, football and prom. The book touches themes of abuse, coming out and having difficult relationships. I question whether everything bad really had to have happened to everyone in this book, but at the same time, it’s not unrealistic—shit does happen.
This book is set in the early 90s. They still made mixed tapes. Mixed tapes, OMG! And at some point, Kurt Cobain was still alive. Wow. Aside from the slight nostalgia factor, this book could’ve been set in any other time, and the issues would be the same—they transcend generations. People still get hurt and are mistreated, and teenagers everywhere can relate to the characters and the issues this book depicts, even if you’ve never had anything like that happen to you.
It took me a while to read this book, and I had to put it down for a bit to read something happier. Charlie can get a bit depressive, but he pulls through and you find yourself barracking for him, especially at the end when he figures things out. I spent most of this book just wanting to give him a hug.
Author Stephen Chbosky fills the book with pithy observations, the most famous (and my favorite) being, ‘We accept the love we think we deserve.’ This book draws you in and takes you through someone’s life and the lives of everyone else he is a part of. It spits you out, a little tired and worse for wear, but somehow I feel like I’ve been made better by it. Its raw honesty makes it truly one of the best young adult books I’ve ever read.
I don’t think I can see the movie now. (I don’t even think I can reread this book. It needs a hug.)
Yay or nay?
Go and read it. (Or I guess you can see the movie?) Charlie’s voice might be a little annoying at the start—he seems so passive—but by the end you’ll be right by his side, hoping that everything works out for him and his friends.
The film is due for release on October 3.
Who might enjoy it: Readers who enjoy coming of age stories
Who might not enjoy it: Readers looking for a happy read