And while he’s not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his year yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.
Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix 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. But he can’t stay on the sidelines forever. 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.
Fair warning: this review contains lots of curses.
I know it’s not really fair to compare a book to its film adaptation, so I’ll try not to do that. But I should probably state for the record that I liked The Perks of Being a Wallflower movie, despite Chbosky’s weird use of smash cuts, awkward non-sequiters, and shenanigan-worthy lines like, “I wish I’d studied more during freshman year.” I snorted at that last one. The way I remember it, ninth grade was basically state-run babysitting.
But the movie made me feel good. It was uplifting and well cast. I kind of expected that the book would give me the same sense of enjoyment, or move me on the same level. I was greatly disappointed.
I found The Perks of Being a Wallflower extremely difficult to sympathize with because of the style in which it’s written. The entire novel is in epistolary format, consisting of letters between Charlie and an anonymous recipient whom he calls Dear Friend. Because of the format, the reader doesn’t get to meet the other characters firsthand and make up his or her own mind about them. We only know what Charlie tells us, and their actions and words are framed according to his experiences, filtered according to his perceptions, etc.
I was also beyond annoyed at Chbosky’s use of quotation marks around nouns. Take this example:
Patrick kept making jokes that I would get an “erection.”
Erection is not slang, a colloquialism, or a euphemism. It’s the actual word to describe a man’s state of arousal. So why the fuck is it in quotation marks? There are dozens of instances of this, and only a handful can be justified as slang/euphemisms/rare words.
Normally I would call this tab “characterization,” but since the entire story is framed through Charlie’s impressions and opinions, I don’t think that’s the best word for it. Charlie is the epistolary narrator, and everyone else in this story is only what he sees or reports.
Charlie and I didn’t get along. Normally I sympathize with the socially awkward, but Charlie was just so lame. And his tear ducts might as well be watering cans. This kid cries on practically every page. Part of that is because he’s prone to panic attacks, which is a mental health issue so I won’t pick on it, but the other half of the time he’s weeping because he’s just so damn sensitive about everything. I kept waiting for the part where he gets his first period.
- Final Thoughts
This might be the only instance, ever, where I recommend the movie but not the book on which it was based. I think the story just works better as a movie than it does as a series of letters.