“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is the next book for the Teen Book Club here at the library, sponsored by the Ontario City Library, Colony High Branch. Since the discussion date is quickly approaching (January 26), I moved this title to the top of my list and read it last week. I can see why it’s a ‘cult classic.’
Charlie, the protagonist, sends letters to an unnamed ‘friend’ without giving his identity away. He discusses what it’s like to be in high school. He’s a wallflower in the sense that he is an observer of all that goes on, yet he is not a participant. Something about his writing style made me think of the narrator of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time,” a character with Asperger’s Syndrome. Charlie is much more average on the scale of normal interaction, but still, he doesn’t quite understand social situations in the same way that most people would.
Despite the strikes against him, Charlie befriends a small group of misfits—and the novel makes clear that just about everyone in high school is a misfit, even the most popular cheerleaders and football stars. Though “Perks” has been compared to “The Catcher in the Rye,” partly because it deals with teen depression, the subject matter is more contemporary—the characters must deal with current sexual attitudes, parties and drugs, date rape and teen pregnancy. Not that they don’t have fun—some of the most poignant passages in the book are on how carefully Charlie chooses gifts for his friends, how well he ‘reads’ their hearts and how much he loves them—and receives love in return. This is a truly engaging and honest book for mature readers. It’s also a quick read, so if you’d like to check it out before the discussion on January 26, come by the reference desk and pick up a copy!