Reynje's Reviews > The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
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Jun 05, 12

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bookshelves: books-that-linger, read-2012, shelf-of-ambivalence, young-adult, it-s-complicated, release-the-drama-llamas, contemp-or-realistic, rory-gilmore
Recommended to Reynje by: Shirley Marr
Read from January 12 to 15, 2012

If, like me, you lurk on frequent tumblr, you will have realised that there is only so far you can scroll before you hit something like this:

Photobucket

Stephen Chbosky’s epistolary novel has something of a cult following, and the quotes that litter the internet seem almost anthemic, given the passion with which they are re-blogged, quoted, slapped across artfully light-leaked photographs and “liked”.

A generation appears to have adopted The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and by extension it’s narrator Charlie, as a sort of symbol of the experience of adolescence. Frequently criticised and challenged, Perks seems to offer its devoted fans a sense of connection, of understanding, of honesty about things left unspoken, or whispered behind hands and closed doors. This book speaks to the sense of alienation that many teens experience, the questions of who they are and where they belong. Charlie has become a response to – and I mean no disrespect by this, as I was/am a voice in this – a collective, plaintive cry of “nobody understands me”.

It also seems to have become an unofficial badge of hipsterism, and therein lies the reason for my cautious (view spoiler) approach to reading this book.

To be blunt, I expected to dislike Perks. I know my reading tastes quite well by now and I no longer feel the need to read books based on any kind of social or intellectual cachet apparently attached to them. If anything, that just makes me more inclined to baulk at picking them up.

So I confess to a little chagrin at the realisation that I don’t hate this book. I don’t even dislike it. I’ll push the boat right out and say I was rather moved by this story.

While some of the issues and content in Perks may seem less groundbreaking now, more than a decade after it’s initial publication, I think it’s fair to say that they still resonate with readers. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since 1999 in terms of “edgy” or “controversial” YA books, so it’s possible that the impact of the explicit or implied events in Chbosky’s novel are somewhat softened by comparison. Regardless, it’s still a book that successfully captures the way these topics are internalised by the protagonist, and it’s evidently a voice that continues to engage and move its more recent audience. Basically, it’s not strictly the topics that appeal, so much as the manner in which they’re approached and discussed.

That said, there is a lot going on in this book, and I have to wonder whether the sheer breadth of the issues touched upon lessens the strength of the story. And not in the sense that I think the events are unrealistic, necessarily, but more that (and I offer this opinion with some trepidation) at times Perks reads like it’s a bit in love with its own moroseness. The novel’s gaze is so relentlessly self-involved that I can’t help but feel that there is something indulgent in its tone, which I was not enamoured with.

Whether “wallflower” is a strictly accurate descriptor for Charlie is a topic I’ve seen expanded upon in other reviews, and I won’t go into that much here. Charlie is evidently an introvert, allegedly “gifted”, who has a rich and consuming inner world, but I think it’s clear that there is more at play here than simple shyness, intellectually and socially speaking. While some of Charlie’s emotional state is explained at the end of the novel, I feel that there’s even more to Charlie than Chbosky ever reveals, hinted at by the apparent naivety of his fifteen / sixteen years.

What I did appreciate, and what ultimately caused me to like this book, was how accurately Charlie’s experiences with anxiety and depression were presented. Prior to this, I hadn’t read a book that so closely mirrored the physical and emotional manifestation of anxiety as I am familiar with it. The deeply unsettling sensation of nebulous tentacles of panic radiating out in search of something to fixate on, of instability and uncontrolled sadness, honestly made me feel nauseous. I can’t help but wish I’d had this book in my hands when I was teenager, when it probably would have meant the world to me. Anxiety is an incredibly frightening and isolating condition, and I think this book communicates that very truthfully. The sensation of being a spectator of life, rather than a participant in it, is all too relevant and close-to-home for many who have experienced a mental illness in some form.

It’s probably no surprise then, that I found Chobsky’s characterisation one of the highlights of this book. From Charlie himself as the narrator, through the supporting cast, I felt that I knew who these people were, that they were real. (It actually makes me curious to see the film adaptation, and how the nuances and subtleties of the characters translate to the screen).

I can’t say that I’ll be joining the ranks of dedicated, vocal fans of The Perks of a Wallflower, leaving a trail of quotes in my wake across the internet. But I am quietly appreciative of this book, and the powerful, unique experience of reading it.

You can read Shirley Marr's extremely awesome take on this book here. Prepare for your daily cup of radness to runneth over.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

At Shirley’s request:

Ode to a Readalong (or I’m Sorry I Abandoned You Shirley) (or This Poem Is Too Cool To Rhyme)

I tried to be a hipster today
But they said my haircut wasn’t cool enough
So I guess it’s back to being a real nerd
Instead of a pretend one

Then I thought I'd read The Perks of Being a Wallflower
In my scarf with my fixie-riding friend Shirley
Turn up my Smiths record really loud
And contemplate my infiniteness

But my mockery proved empty, hollow like my heart
I wept bitter tears as I turned each page
Trapped in a glass cage of emotion
As I realised I will never be hip

Ever.

Shirley & Reynje's Hipsterific Readalong - Coming in 2012

Miss Shirley, get your scarf on! I'm waiting for you..(in the meantime, I'll be listening to bands that are so cool they don't even exist yet.)

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Quotes Reynje Liked

Stephen Chbosky
“I have decided that maybe I want to write when I grow up. I just don't know what I would write.”
Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
tags: moi

Stephen Chbosky
“It's like he would take a photograph of Sam, and the photograph
would be beautiful. And he would think that the reason the
photograph was beautiful was because of how he took it. If I took
it, I would know that the only reason it's beautiful is because of
Sam.”
Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower


Reading Progress

01/13 page 45
19.0% "Part 2" 13 comments
01/14 page 65
28.0% 2 comments
01/14 page 110
47.0% "Oh hi there, Jack Kerouac. Of course your book would show up." 1 comment
02/02 marked as: read
show 1 hidden update…

Comments (showing 36-85)





Shirley Marr Shirley: What can we read? What about Rosie Black #2?
Reynje: yes, we both enjoyed the first one
Shirley: And there's Pip for you
Reynje: And Riley for you
Shirley: It'll be fun! Hang on, what about The Perks of Being a Wallflower?
Reynje: I heard that this is big with Hipsters, so totally not my thing
Shirley: Written by a Hipster Arse-Hat. I hate Hipster Arse-Hats
Shirley & Reynje: WE TOTALLY HAVE TO READ THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER!


Reynje Reynje: So we can make fun of the hipsters! Which is totally hip! It's so META-HIPSTER.
Shirley: Because being a plain hipster is so not hip.
Reynje: RAGE AGAINST HIPSTERISM!
Shirley: Arse-hats.
Reynje: Say arse-hat again.
Shirley & Reynje: Arse-hats!


message 83: by Jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jo The Smiths feature very prominently in this book.

It's so totally original because no one likes The Smiths so when people do it's really unique.

(view spoiler)


Reynje Groan. (view spoiler)

Because nobody, in the history of teen angst, has ever played a Smiths song and mused on their existential pain.

The only thing that makes me more cross is seeing a 12 year old in a Ramones t-shirt. Please.


Shirley Marr WOAH! I love The Smiths! I R A HIPSTAR !! ;-)

(view spoiler)


message 80: by Jo (last edited Dec 02, 2011 04:28AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jo (view spoiler)

Ugh, they do that in Australia too?!


message 79: by Jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jo I hope you have same haircut as Johnny, Ms Marr.


Reynje I don't want this book to ruin the Smiths for me! Wah!

(view spoiler)

Shirley, LOL. (view spoiler)


message 77: by Jo (last edited Dec 02, 2011 04:31AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jo

This is how I'm going to picture you two forever and ever.

Rey! Don't worry, it's not that bad, I don't think they'll make you hate them.

I just get irrationally angry when Mozza is involved.


Reynje Yes, Jo. Unfortunately they do. And I have to stop myself from literally howling "You don't even know who they are!"


Reynje Jo wrote: "

This is how I'm going to picture you two forever and ever."


YES! Hahahaha.

Look at my pink shirt. Look at it!


message 74: by Jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jo The expression on his face is so unnerving.

And yes Rey, I'm looking at it. :-|


message 73: by Shirley (last edited Dec 02, 2011 04:37AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Shirley Marr Jo, I LOVE YOU!

Reynje, you look so fetching in that pink polka dot shirt that we should just go down to that registry office and get married now. Do you dig my fringe that I can flick broodingly out of my face like a swaggering arse-hat?


Reynje Morrissey and Marr Pictures, Images and Photos

I dig your fringe, and your cute clasped hands :)


Reynje Look at us! It's a match made in Hipster Heaven! This can be our wedding dance:

Moz and Marr dancing Pictures, Images and Photos


Shirley Marr WOW Rey I love your skinny lily white body !!!

look at me move people look at me move!!


message 69: by Jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jo OK, officially too much Mozza going on right now.

Jo out.

*salutes*


Shirley Marr JO COME BACK! WE NEED A WITNESS FOR THE REGISTRY!

*pursues Jo*


message 67: by Jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jo B-b-buuuttt Morrissey.

Tsk. Fine.

But I'M NOT HAPPY ABOUT THIS.


message 66: by Jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jo


Reynje Jo! We'll let you be Joey Ramone!


message 64: by Jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jo Haha, I'm not cool enough to be a Ramone.

I don't really know much about them!
I mean... I don't even have a t-shirt or anything :(


I'm totally a mod, not a rocker.


Reynje Can I entice you to stay with this?

(view spoiler)


message 62: by Jo (last edited Dec 02, 2011 04:59AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jo It will be a cold day in Hell the day I say no to a Yorkshire boy.


Reynje I'm just going to leave this here...

(view spoiler)


message 60: by Jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jo Have you ever heard this?

I think that's the moment when I fell in love with him.
It takes a certain kind of man to make Girls Aloud sound that cool.


message 59: by Shirley (last edited Jan 02, 2012 04:40AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Shirley Marr You updated this page with an awesome selfy with black nail polish and I did not see this as an update? Why oh why Goodread do you be mean on purpose? *cries*

Anyway, I wanted to say that I've ordered a copy cos as it turns out, some friggin hipster has stolen the libraries copy :/

I'll let you know when it arrives ;-)

ps - what t-shirt is that *tries to peer, realises internet does not work like that, gets disappointed*


Reynje Those dirty thievin' hipsters! But no problem, I will just sit here patiently knitting and listening to records until your copy arrives :)

hmm. I'm not sure. *squints* Oh right, it's my rad hipster t-shirt.

Haha. Lie. It's probably my pyjama t-shirt.

I do love this comment thread :)


Shirley Marr I bet that shirt is awesome

*sigh*

While I wait, I'm going to go outside and knit around a power pole :/


Reynje Hahaha! Yes, I've seen those :)


Shirley Marr Why is my reading of this so slow Reynje WHY WHY WHY?

I am having an existential crisis!

cuts my hair

listens to The Smiths

*cries*
.
.
.
.*still crying*
.
.
.
Reynje.... can I have a hug?


Reynje *HUGS*

You big emo ;)

About that fight... (view spoiler)

I'm off to repaint my fingernails black now..


message 53: by [deleted user] (new)

Brilliant poem!


Shirley Marr I have pressed like already.

Which means I can never press it again

*bursts into tears*

Your poem is breaking my heart

into infinite pieces.


Reynje Let it never be said that Reynje backs down from a poetry challenge :)


Shirley Marr All Hail the Emo Queen! Long live the Queen.

So. I finished the book.

And it was SOOO four stars until I got to the end :(

So it be fated we be conjoined twins.

Like two equally sized stars being tugged together by each others gravitational pull

Like Morrissey and Marr

Like Bert and Ernie

*bursts into random tears*


Reynje Like.. like Scott and Charlene!

*sobs*

If we're destined to be rating twins, at least our reviews will be different. Your's will be all eloquent and literary and detailed and mine will be random emo-ranting. Maudlin. It will be so maudlin.

(view spoiler)


Shirley Marr *brightens*

YES! I'll be Scott and you can fix my car :)

Pffft I don't think so Rey, don't fool yourself. I am aiming to write something incredibly nonsensical. And a pox be on you.

heeeee!

(view spoiler)


Reynje Do it! (view spoiler) You know I will only egg you on.. (what does that expression even mean? Really?)


Shirley Marr Does that mean you will throw eggs at me?

Hmmmm, I think we are beginning to sound like Lisa and Maja.

But like the evil hipster versions.


Reynje I can throw eggs at you if you like :)

Evil hipsters. I like it! Shirley, please write a book about Evil Hipsters.


Shirley Marr Only if they are Easter Eggs. And make sure they are Cadbury Creme!

It was a dark and self-referential night. Reynje and Shirley were out on their fixies with flower bombs and spraypaint. Reynje had composed a beat poem and Shirley had a copy of The Catcher in the Rye tucked inside her paddington coat...

How is your review, can I see it??


Reynje ... after an impromptu poetry reading down a dark alley way, Reynje and Shirley then proceeded to dance like this while taking self portraits and uploading them to Instagram..

My review is underway. It turns out that I actually have a raging fever and am not, in fact, "just a little warm". Sigh. Oh well, now I really have a reason to write emo poetry

2012 is not my year
I am falling apart at the seams...


Anyway! I'll probably post it tonight :)


Michelle Wow Reynje this review is incredible, absolutely incredible.


Reynje Maree wrote: "Wow Reynje this review is incredible, absolutely incredible."

Thanks Maree :) I felt a bit like I was just waffling on for ages without really saying anything!


Michelle Well even if it was waffle, which I don't think it is (in my highly skilled opinion obviously haha), it is beautifully written waffle. Honestly I aspire to be able to write a review as insightful as this.

P.s you've sold me on this book I'm bumping it up the to-read list


Reynje Well thank you, that's so kind of you to say! Honestly, I was pretty resistant to this book for a long time. I thought I would really dislike it. But I think I understand now why it means so much to a lot of people..


message 38: by [deleted user] (new)

I adore the Rey-Way :)
This has been on my TBR for agesssss, dunno if I'll bump it up, not sure if my wee heart can take it.


message 37: by [deleted user] (new)

Also, my gosh that image is all over my dash ;)


Reynje Trinity wrote: "I adore the Rey-Way :)
This has been on my TBR for agesssss, dunno if I'll bump it up, not sure if my wee heart can take it."


But the Rey Way is not Trin-Tastic :)

I think you would be fine - I'm just a lightweight!


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