Words by Tom Meakins
After hearing news of a film adaptation of Stephen Chbosky’s first novel, which is scheduled for release in September 2012 and stars Emma Watson, I decided to read The Perks of Being a Wallflower again. I first read it when I was 17, and it had such a great impact on me that I instantly called it my favourite book. However, this time I thought perhaps I would be too old to admire it as much as I did before. However, by the end, I still found it an endearing read and I would still put it up there along with some older classics, including novels by Fitzgerald (Tender is the Night and The Great Gatsby), Steinbeck (The Grapes of Wrath) and Hemingway (For Whom the Bell Tolls).
The main highlight of the book for me is its form; as it is an epistolary novel that comprises of letters written by the protagonist, Charlie, to an anonymous person over the course of a year, in which he documents his last year in school before entering High School as a sophomore. The novel begins in the late summer of 1991, and it is one of my favourite books: firstly, because it cites Catcher in the Rye as a large influence, but even more so because it famously references particular literature, film and music, that are somewhat alternative. For example, Charlie’s English teacher gives him additional books to read such as On the Road, The Stranger and Naked Lunch. In addition, Charlie learns about music from those who befriend him, including alternative rock by contemporary bands like Nirvana and a beautiful song by Smashing Pumpkins called Daydream, as well as other classics like The Smiths and Fleetwood Mac.
The main character of the novel is a shy freshman who could be described as a ‘wallflower’ – one that watches everyone from the side and does not participate like others do. The themes include adolescence, introversion, recreational drugs and first-time use, homosexuality, sex and relationships.
Another feature of the novel, which makes it memorable for me is the writing style, which conveys a clear image of a teenager, inducing memories of the awkward time of adolescence. On the other hand, I admire it because it does not aim to merely portray teenage angst, but rather the growing of a person in which they can enter the real world, experiencing life and finally finding where they belong. ‘And in that moment I swear we were infinite. Love always, Charlie.’ I just hope the film can emulate the devices that make this book special, onto the big screen.