Last Sunday I made the hour trek to Waterville’s Railroad Square Cinema with Tony to meet up with our mutual friend, Brian, who’s as much of (if not more) of a film fanatic than Tony. I always feel a little lost during these meetups, as my knowledge of movies doesn’t quite compare to their complex understanding of the film canon, but I manage to muddle along because of the couple of film classes I took in college and my literature background.
I was especially excited about Sunday’s movie date because we were going to see The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I had read the novel several years back and didn’t remember a lot about it except that I enjoyed it. And, because I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, I couldn’t wait to see Emma Watson in a new role (she plays the protagonist’s best friend/love interest, Sam).
Guys, I loved the film so much that I rushed to reread the book and finished it early this morning as I watched the election results trickle in. So, first, before I wax poetic about the novel, GO WATCH THE MOVIE AND READ THE BOOK! So good! Eee! (See? I’ve been reduced to one-syllable squeals, so both are obviously awesome).
So, let us now chat about the novel.
As Charlie begins his first year of high school, he feels alone, as his best friend, Michael, recently committed suicide. As The Perks of Being a Wallflower progresses, which is told through letters to an unknown person, we watch Charlie struggle and attempt to find his footing as he makes friends and tries to navigate the social scene in high school. Although Charlie is certainly witty, thoughtful, and intelligent, he’s not exactly a genius when it comes to understanding social situations, and it’s both painful and familiar to see him fumble and attempt to be an acceptable and understandable person to others.
Although he’s often accepted (he’s lucky to have found a social circle of “misfits” who care dearly for him), he’s not always understood. Charlie is working through a lot of “little secrets” that have slowly accumulated within him throughout his life. To say more would spoil the book, so I leave it up to you to find out what I’m talking about!
I find that many novels I read are strongest in their plot and not so much in capturing a specific three dimensional voice. But Charlie has such a charismatic voice and presence that you can’t help but be swept up in his pain, pleasure, confusion, and validation. He is emotional without being emo, and he embodies adolescence so perfectly that you can’t help but reflect on your own experience in high school.
Although I’m a book person at heart, I’ll forgive you if you go see the movie instead, because it’s done so well and keeps the book’s best interests at heart. I’ll love you even more if you read the book AND see the film (and I’ll give you a high five the next time I see you!)