Tuesday, January 29, 2013

In That Moment We Were Infinite

Published: August 14th, 2012 (First published February 1st, 1999)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
By: Stephen Chbosky
MTV Books
ISBN-13: 9781451696196

Charlie is a freshman.

And while he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his year yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.

Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix 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. But he can't stay on the sidelines forever. 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.


     Charlie is looking forward to his Freshman year of high school.  He wants things to be different, for big things to happen in his life for a change.  But he just can't stop observing life instead of living it - until he meets Patrick and Sam.  They lead him into a world of parties, Rocky Horror Picture Show re-enactments, new music, drugs, first love and Charlie begins to live for the first time.  Also throughout the year he has an interesting English teacher who gives him extra book assignments, that make him think about life in ways he never has before.  With family issues coming up from the past and and old trauma haunting him, can Charlie get past it and learn to make it on his own?  Or will he always just be waiting for the downturn of his happy ending?  This was a coming of age book, in the tradition of Catcher In the Rye, and Ordinary People.  It has the same melancholy, anxiousness as the latter and the honesty of the former.  I liked the story enough that I kept reading, though Charlie annoyed me quite a bit in the beginning.  No one cries that much unless they are mentally unstable and have serious issues.  And no one is that naive by the time they're a teenager (although a revelation at the end of the book kind of makes it more believable to me).  The relationships with Sam and Patrick respectively are interesting and full of great moments.   I mean, who hasn't felt this way at some point or another: 

       “So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I'm still   
       trying to figure out how that could be.”

Then again I spent most of my teenage years as an introvert, a wallflower like Charlie.  I was a serious observer of life and not much of a liver (but then I also went through some of the same childhood issues as him, so I can maybe see the correlation in some individuals between the two).  This book was told in letter form, to someone that is never given a name, but obviously means something important to Charlie for him to be so unflinchingly honest about his feelings and experiences.  The advent of drugs into Charlie's life was sort of surreal in the way he treated it so naturally.  Like, "Oh, do I want some LSD?  Sure!  Why wouldn't I?"  The closeness of his family, yet their emotional estrangement from each other is something I am familiar with on a personal level.  Maybe the reason why this book was hard for me to read and know what I felt about it at the end, was because Charlie's life was like a photograph of my own teenage years on an extremely personal level.  The only thing I can say for myself is that I am NOT such a crybaby, am not that naive and have never gone over the cuckoo's nest so to speak.  Overall a good read, with some high emotions.  But those high emotions level out leaving the reader feeling blank at the end - probably due to Charlie's emotional blankness in his letters.  That was the only true insincerity to me.

VERDICT:  3.5/5  Stars

*No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

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