Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower has plagued me for years. It's one of those novels that I've always seen prominently displayed in the bookstores and have had countless people recommend. I'm not particularly interested in seeing the movie version, but the resurgence in popularity due to the movie, definitely put this book back on my radar and I decided to finally purchase the Kindle version.
I am so glad that I gave in. Chbosky is brilliant at writing from the teenage mindset. I wouldn't have thought this, if I had not recently come across a box of letters from my high school years. It's as if Chbosky plagiarized my letters for his novel! They are filled with thoughts and ideas that can only be important to teenagers. They are often highly self-reflective and painfully awkward to read. This is how it is to be a teenager, only it's something that you can't understand until you become an adult. Chbosky writes characters who are so much like myself and friends that I had in high school, that it's uncanny. These are ordinary kids, just trying to figure out where they belong and where their life is headed.
The story is mostly quiet and filled with average moments. I like this routine quality to the storytelling, because teenage life is filled with routine, punctuated by a special party or outing with friends that takes on an extraordinary importance. I love the scene where Sam, Patrick and Charlie are driving in the car. Those moments of freedom and glimpses of adulthood are what being a teenager is all about, those small moments.
I felt like this rather mundane tone made the twist at the end more shocking. The twist wasn't at all necessary from a plot perspective, but this story is not plot driven. At its core, it's a character development piece. The main character, Charlie, is revealed very slowly, one layer at a time. Chbosky's focus on character development, rather than plot, is a huge reason this story is so affecting and doesn't feel artificial.
On a small note, I got a kick out of the time frame of the book. It takes place in the early 90's and I would have been the same age as the main character in the book. The story is definitely peppered with little things that root the story in the era.