If you’re the kind of person who likes reading books, then I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of Perks of Being a Wallflower. Heck, even people who don’t usually read books have heard of this one, primarily because the movie adaptation involves heavyweights such as Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Paul Rudd. So what is the book about, anyway? If you look at the movie adaptation’s cast, you’re going to think that these beautiful people could play nothing else but popular teenagers. Man, you could not be more wrong.
Here, while we’re still at the beginning, I feel obligated to tell you that this is a great book. Pick up a copy when you can and I guarantee that you will be unable to put it down until you’ve turned the last page and Charlie has signed his last letter. You’ll find yourself going to the bathroom with the book in one hand and toilet paper in the other. You’ll be eating with the book propped open beside you. You’re going to be eating up electricity by keeping your bedside lamp burning until the wee hours of the morning. You have been warned.
I guess those statements up there make the point of writing a review pretty moot. So I’m just gonna give you a rundown of what the book is about to whet your appetite.
I’ll start off by saying that Charlie, the hero of the story, is a weird kid. But not to the point that he’s killing people or anything. He has issues and, let’s face it, what kind of teenager doesn’t? The thing about Charlie is that he never really had a normal childhood. His Aunt Helen, who he considers to be the most awesome person in the world, died in a car accident while on her way to buy Charlie a birthday present. His best friend shot himself because of family problems during the summer before high school started. He was Charlie’s only friend.
Charlie’s starting high school this year, and he’s not really someone you’d mistake as a popular kid. On his first day at school, the only friend he makes is his English teacher, and that’s kind of depressing. All this makes him sad. That is, until he meets Patrick and his step-sister, Sam. They show him how to let loose and have fun. They take him to parties, introduce him to other people, and appreciate the fact that he’s a wallflower. Charlie notices things, he sees things, but he doesn’t say anything. He puts the lives and happiness of others before his–he’s special that way. Charlie found a family in Patrick and Sam, and maybe even something more with Sam.
What I loved about this book is that it’s a mix of different genres. It’s a young adult story that revolved around a coming-of-age theme. It dealt with homosexuality without debasing it, which is a fault in most books I’ve read that dealt with the topic. It talks about romance–first kisses, reputations, relationships, breakups, cheating, etc–as well as the ability of a person to feel infinite.
A friend of mine, Abbu Cabrera, reviewed this book on Goodreads a while back and he was able to perfectly put into words what I thought about the book:
There are books that make you smile. There are books that make you cry. There are books that make you both smile and cry, while there are books that make you very nostalgic. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is everybody’s story of hesitantly trying to fit in a strange and unchartered world. Chbosky managed to tell the story like a pastiche of all coming-of-age stories ever told. I love the gay elements (because I’m gay) and I love how the novel captured what it is to discover self-assurance in an environment of uncertainty and doubt.
Unless you weren’t able to tell, he’s a great writer too. His blog is awesome.
On to the movie, then.
My most basic reaction after watching the movie was: Man, Hermione Granger’s all grown up.
That’s a still from the movie. If you’ve read the book, then you know that the main characters help out with their friends’ production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Sam plays Janet in the play. The fact that the Hermione I grew up with prances around the stage in her underwear while singing Creature of the Night and forcing Rocky to touch her breasts really drove home the point that I am getting pretty old.
The movie was like what Peter Jackson’s work was to the Lord of the Rings books. The book was translated, sometimes even word-for-word to the silver screen, with only very minor alterations. Sometimes, this can make the movie really boring, but somehow it worked with this one. Maybe because the person who wrote the book, Stephen Chbosky, also wrote the screenplay for and directed the movie.
The supporting cast was great too. I imagined Mary Elizabeth as someone prettier, maybe like Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Alice, the vampire fanatic who wanted to go to film school, looked better than I expected. I really need to find out the name of that actress. She’s pretty.
There were certain parts though where I think the movie did better than what was in the book. Charlie’s LSD trip and near-death experience via hypothermia was awesome in the book, but Logan Lerman took it one step further and managed to mix humor and a whole lot of other emotion in just a couple of minutes. It was definitely Percy Jackson at his best. Annabeth would be proud.
The ending was a lot better too. When I was finishing up with the book, I really didn’t get why Charlie didn’t pursue a relationship with Sam. What happened the night before Sam left for college was, to me, total crap. Which is why I was relieved when the movie changed things up a bit and settled for a happy, albeit far from the book’s, ending. The movie ended with Logan Lerman standing on the bed of Ezra Miller’s truck, while Ezra and Emma screamed David Bowie’s Heroes. At that moment, everyone would feel infinite.
I’m gonna end this post by sharing with you my favorite scene from the book, which was wonderfully translated into the movie. Charlie was talking to his favorite English professor and, out of curiosity and his concern for Sam, asked Mr. Anderson why nice people always end up dating bad people. That was when Mr. Anderson dropped this gem of a quote:
We accept the love we think we deserve.