The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobosky (213 pages)
Overview: Charlie is starting high school, and he's scared about going to a school where he has no friends. He's always been a bit of a loner and an outcasting, observing the world instead of participating. When his new English teacher Bill to "participate", Charlie starts working harder to talk to people, which is how he meets senior step siblings Sam and Patrick who bring him into their friend circle. This exposes Charlie to a world that he couldn't even imagine from his sheltered life. Through a series of letters to an unknown an recipient, Charlie details his entire freshman year slowly revealing the trauma of his past. Overall: 4
Characters: 4 Chobosky does a great job of making Charlie's voice so clear in these letters that you instantly get a sense of who he is as a person. It is interesting to follow his voice and experience, though sometimes the simplicity of the writing (though it was great for the character development) made it feel a bit flat, or something I just can't put my finger on. As I read, I got the impression that Charlie was somewhere on the Autism spectrum based on his great intelligence and social outlook, so I did some research, and though I wasn't the only one with that thought, others definitely made plausible assertions that it could be a mix of social anxiety and high intelligence. Reading all the different opinions in the Goodreads forum was very interesting.
As for the other characters, I really liked almost every one of them. Chobosky did a great job of shaping these characters and making them multifaceted through the biased lens. For everything he went through, Charlie really found a great group of supporters outside of his family in his life. And reading about his English teacher, Bill, who gave him advanced books to read and write about reminded me of a very special teacher in my life which was really great.
Plot: 4 Charlie's ups and downs and general experience came off as honest and engaging. I never wanted to stop reading, but there was never a time where I desperately had to keep reading because I just had to know what happened next.
Writing: 4 I felt like, craft wise, Chobosky executed what he set out to do well. The character building, letter structure, and plot were well executed. At times, I feel the book overextended itself trying to touch on all the issues out there instead of focusing on a few, but it was never a major issue.
General Thoughts: I had a really hard time scoring this book. I never disliked reading this book, and I don't think that there was anything particularly wrong with it, but I have some urge to score it lower than I ended up doing. While I did not do that because I could not justify it, I believe that came from the fact that when I finished the book, I had no feeling. It didn't make me happy or sad or feel some kind of greater understanding. And not every book has to deliver some great feeling, but usually there is at least something. I identified with certain parts on Charlie's anxieties and feelings, but I never felt a connection with him.
The more I think about it, I think it was that I could just never connect with Charlie. His unshakable innocence I found a bit off putting and would be bordering on unrealistic if Chobosky had not crafted Charlie in such a way. I guess the other part that was difficult for me was how elementary the writing in Charlie's letters were. He's lauded as a highly intelligent character and he could have had the same level of social naivety with writing ability that allowed for complex sentences and a wider vocabulary.
Links of Interest:
Week 34 Part 1: Will Greyson, Will Greyson: http://www.readingwritingandme.com/2017/11/weekly-reviews-and-recommendations-week_9.html