Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky

Last November, I broke one of my cardinal rules and saw "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" at the theater before I read the book.  I know, the shame!  But my daughter really wanted to see the movie, and who am I to deny her.  Turns out, I was so taken with this movie.  I shall be purchasing it for my personal collection as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

I still wanted to read the book, though, and was told by bloggers who know their YA stuff that it was wonderful.  In fact, based on some puttering around on the Internet, it seems it has even achieved a cult-like status.  

Synopsis:  In a coming-of-age story told completely in epistolary form, we meet Charlie, an introverted but highly intelligent boy who is just entering his freshman year in high school.  In letters from Charlie to an unnamed "friend", we learn of the recent suicide of a close buddy, and the accidental death of a favorite aunt, two events that seem to define him and often dictate his shaky emotional state.  Charlie quickly finds his place when he meets fellow outcasts and step-siblings Sam and Patrick, experiments with drugs and sex, and embraces his new friends' sexuality and interests.  He is also taken under the wing of a charismatic teacher that recognizes a brilliance in Charlie.  All the while Charlie is also trying to navigate through his family's challenges and quirky personalities.

The story takes place in the early 1990's in a suburb of Pittsburg, and is a loving tribute to the era's pop culture...reference to music, movies, and television fill the pages.  Through special reading projects assigned to Charlie by his mentor/teacher, a hat is tipped to classic literature as well.  There is something for everyone, and no wonder it is considered by some as a modern classic.

My thoughts:  The author, Stephen Chbosky wrote the screenplay for the movie and directed it, so it was no surprise that I loved the book equally.  In fact, the book could have BEEN the screenplay, the plots were so identical.  And for once, I was really glad that I'd broken my rule and watched the movie first because the actors were perfectly cast, and were in my mind the entire time I was reading.  

There were subtle nuances with the book that made it special, though.  The entire story is written in letter form, in Charlie's "voice", which was PRECIOUS.  His quirky, lovable personality shines through immediately in his words.  Chbosky was genius in creating a character that was raw, real, gullible and innocent.  And tortured.  They were close to capturing this essence in the movie, but not quite as effectively as on paper.

The movie does a good job of peppering the story with music and film of the time...remember those mix tapes?  And The Rocky Horror Picture Show?  That is pure '80's and '90's baby.  But when the dozens of references appear before you in print, it is more obvious.  These were my years, so perhaps this is why I was so taken with it.  I also admired the unflinching examination of sexual abuse, homosexuality, and drug experimentation.  It wasn't preachy or overblown.  It just...was.  Brilliant.  

5 out of 5 stars   

    

22 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I loved the movie and really want to read this one now. I'm glad to see they match up so well.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I can't believe I forgot about the movie and that I wanted to see it! gaaaah! must rent!!!

patebooks said...

A YA classic. Haven't seen movie yet!

Ti said...

Haven't seen the film but the book was wonderful. I feel so silly too because this gal in our book club for YEARS tried to get us to read it. She kept pitching it and we kept shooting it down. Then, when she moved out of state she gave me her copy and I could just slap myself for not choosing it for the group.

Zibilee said...

I have also heard a lot about this book, and was more than interested when the movie hit theaters, but didn't make it in time. Now I think I would like to read the book first, and then see the movie, because the epistolary format of the book really entices me, and you also mentioned that the casting was perfect. It would be interesting to see what I think if I did it in the reverse order.

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I loved this book but I still haven't seen the movie!! I need to do that.

Belle Wong said...

I really want to read this now. I didn't realize it was in epistolary form. I'm not big on movies, so I'm glad the book was even better.

C.B. James said...

Well alright then. I guess I'll have to read and/or watch it. ;-)

JoAnn said...

I know there's a copy upstairs in my daughter's bookcase. I really need to read it!

caite said...

Wow, I never heard of the book or movie!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I'm so glad you loved this one. I thought the movie was particularly well done and perfectly cast, but the book has a special place in my heart. I read it as a freshman in high school and reread it before seeing the film. Just the perfect, earnest coming-of-age story.

Jeane said...

I never cared for these films. I don't like scary movies but my ex used to make me watch them w/him once in a while. For some reason my kid likes these a lot- she's been asking when the next one will come out- even though they do scare her silly. Guess she likes that.

Tasha B. said...

Wow, Chbosky's multi-talented!

Jackie Bailey said...

Now I don't know whether to watch the film or read it first! i never watch it first normally, but you've put up a good argument and confused me!

Julie P. said...

Haven't seen the movie or read the book. Sounds like I need to fix that!

Anita LeBeau said...

I have a copy of the book, just need to have time to read it. I heard the movie was well done.

Trisha said...

I loved this book when I read it (I have yet to see the movie). Funnily enough (at least it's funny now) one of my students asked to borrow this book and then never gave it back. I sincerely hope it's because she loved it so much.

Kerri said...

Just got this movie to watch with my 13 yr old daughter-now I can look forward to reading it too-though I usually prefer to read first and watch second...

softdrink said...

Totally agree with you! I read this in January and just adored it...I have yet to manage to post about, though.

Jenners said...

My husband and I started this movie but he bailed (SO not his thing) so I'm going to continue on by myself with both movie and book.

stacybuckeye said...

This is one of the few times that I'm more tempted by the movie than the book. I'm glad that I'll love both no matter what order I read/see them in!

Kathleen said...

My son just watched this movie and loved it. I'd love to read the book and see the movie and I love that it doesn't matter which order I do these things in.