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by Lily Hall April 12 2017, 20:33

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.

This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

This is the story of what it's like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed 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.

Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Wow. What a great title. If only this book lived up to its name.

Okay, I admit I read this book because the movie was coming out soon and reading a book after the movie is out is too mainstream. But it's also one of the most hyped-up YA titles of all time and I was curious.

The verdict? No. Just no.

Firstly, the writing. It was so choppy that it resembled that of a semi-illiterate preteen and annoyed me to no end. Charlie is supposed to be a 'genius' and an amazing essay-writer, and yet his voice came across as stupid and downright annoying at times. Chbosky used to write for theater and you can tell that he isn't used to the long, flowing sentences of prose that make a novel...well, a novel.

I mean, there is a difference. Take this conversation, for instance:

Me: Hey, Hayley. I had a sandwich today. Hayley: Great.

In the average novel, the conversation would've been written like this:

I told Hayley I had a sandwich today, and she raised her eyebrows at me as though wondering why I was announcing such a mundane piece of news. 'Great,' she said.

While Chbosky wrote it like this:

I told Hayley I had a sandwich today. She raised her eyebrows at me. 'Great,' she said. She didn't sound interested. What if she didn't like me? The perk of being a wallflower was that nobody cared about me. At all.

Secondly, the metaphors.

As many of you know, I'm all for the metaphors: John Green and Ian McEwan are the masters of pretentious metaphors. And yet Stephen Chbosky takes the one good quote in the book and expands it again and again and again until the reader starts wondering whether he's trying to build the book on Charlie's life or a metaphor about feeling infinite.

I get that it's a wonderful quote and I understand that the author probably wanted to make it a motif or something, but when I see idea after idea developed on a quote as a building block, the whole tower soon collapses because the bottom is simply too weak to support it. And that is what happened with this book.

On a personal level, I found it nearly impossible to connect with Charlie. Supposed genius, child prodigy, and yet carelessly written, he never seemed real to me, and never did the other characters--Sam being a notable exception. Chbosky tried so hard to make Charlie well-read, intelligent, and thoughtful, but his character always fell flat for me.

I think that adults often forget about what it's like to be a teenager. Perks is the perfect example of why some adults are better suited to writing adult fiction...because it's easy to forget what being young feels like.

And that is precisely where the spirit of YA is captured. It's also where Perks failed.

Two stars, because it wasn't awful enough to warrant one but didn't impress me enough for three.



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