So, the book of the month was The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky.
This was a weird read to me, because it's not at all in my preferred genre, which is fantasy and the occasional sci-fi. I don't much like coming of age novels and I generally don't read them. But, I wanted to read something more people could relate to for my first book of the month, and since the movie adaptation of this novel did so well in cinemas (though I haven't seen it) , I thought I'd give it a shot.
What it's about (SPOILER ALERT) :
Charlie is a fifteen year old boy who suffered the loss of a close friend, Michael, who committed suicide. He writes to an anonymous counsellor to try and get things off his chest (this is the form the novel takes, as the written letters to the counsellor). He's kind of quirky and I'd almost say, jaded, and is the youngest of three kids.
The book starts as he starts his junior year in high school and he can't seem to make friends, because he's simply too weird.
At a football match, he befriends Patrick and Sam, a half brother and sister who are seniors at Charlie's school and they kid of show him the ropes and become his friends.
They add him to their little group of friends, where Charlie is exposed to all kinds of things, from sex to drugs and homosexuality. This following part isn't in chronological order, so bare with me.
Charlie's English teacher takes a liking in him and is constantly giving him books to read and write reports on. Later, you learn that this was because he saw Charlie was gifted and wanted to keep his mind sharp. Bill plays a profound part in Charlie's life.
As the book continues, you learn that while Charlie's family has some dysfunctional qualities, they're not bad people overall. His aunt died in a car crash on his birthday and Charlie went to see psychologists because of this. But you also learn that he suffered from anger issues and other small problems throughout his life. In fact, Charlie is more than a little weird. :) This same aunt, you learn later, was molested as a child, but Charlie always loved and looked up to her.
He's instantly attracted to Sam, though he dates another girl briefly in the book. Patrick is gay and in an ongoing relationship with the school's quarterback, who is still in the closet. When the relationship is ended, it results in Patrick being beaten and Charlie jumping in to help his friend.
Throughout the course of the book, Charlie is forced to keep a lot of secrets for a lot of people. He never really does things for himself, instead he's always doing what he is certain will make others happy, and that at a disadvantage to himself. He becomes a chain smoker and a regular marijuana user during the course of the story and also uses LSD at one point.
There are a lot of sexual themes in the book as well. Charlie is a young boy when he witnesses a rape. He also catches his sister while having sex with a boy who beats her; the same boy who impregnates her and leaves her afterwards. He is the one who has to secretly drive her to have an abortion and swears not to tell their parents about it. Also, when Patrick and his boyfriend break up, Patrick takes to kissing Charlie, who doesn't like it, but allows it, because he thinks he's being a good friend.
Charlie starts seeing another pshycologist, who starts hammering on him for details about his childhood, though he doesn't understand why.
At the end of the book Charlie and Sam finally get more intimate and when she's touching his thigh and *erm* boy parts, he instinctively pushes her away. This is when you learn (through a dream) that his aunt (the one who he looked up to) had molested him as a child, before her death, and Charlie had blocked it out his whole life.
In the last letter to the counsellor, you learn that Charlie ended up in a hospital for a couple of months. The whole thing about his aunt molesting him had come out and he'd either had a breakdown, or (as I personally suspect) tried to commit suicide. He says goodbye to the counsellor then, stating that he's going to start taking part in life and that he was OK.
And that's the book.
It plays off in the early ninetees and contains some swearing and bad language (the f-word, taking the Lord's name in vain, and words demeaning to homosexual people and women, if you need me to be specific). Since this is a family friendly blog, I hope I didn't make anyone uncomfortable by writing this post!!
My views :
I didn't much like it, to be honest. I hear the movie is very sweet and doesn't feature all the sexual themes of the book, as well as all of the drug abuse. I can't say, because I haven't seen it. If you have, drop me a line with your opinion.
I'm not a big fan of first person writing in novels, so that put me off immediately. I mean I loved Hunger Games and the Merlin trilogy by Mary Stewart, but overall if a book is written in first person I'm put off immediately and I seldom finish it.
I found the book a little depressing. And I know I'll be crucified for saying this; but I found it pointless. You don't even know if Charlie's really going to be alright when you end. He has no friends and he's going back to high school as the freak. Have his issues really been resolved? You don't know. I didn't feel good when I put it down, just like I felt after Les Mes, which, at least, was brilliant. I don't feel that way about Wallflower.
I won't go on, because I'll just say nasty things. This is always difficult to me, because praising something on a public forum is really easy, but shooting it down? Not so much. I want the books of the month to be suitable for everyone, of every age group, ethnic group, religion and sexuality, and I'm not sure if this book is. If you're under 16, I would say ask your parents before you read this one. They may not want you to.
If I have to compare it to something, I have to go with the Spud series by John van de Ruit. They style is similar, as Spud writes in a diary and his entries are dated as well. They boys are about the same age and both are discovering sex and sexuality for the first time. Both feature homosexuality in a negative light and may use bad words concerning this. And both are in the 'coming of age' genre.
OK. So, make some suggestions for next month's book of the month below this post, mail me or tell me on Facebook. I'll announce it on Monday.
Have a fabulous weekend, stay beautiful and be kind to animals,