I keep seeing The Perks of Being a Wallflower pop up whenever paging through Netflix and spread throughout my Goodreads newsfeed. People seem to love it so my expectations were high, but while I definitely enjoyed it while reading, looking back come the end left me feeling distinctly underwhelmed.
A coming of age novel, our protagonist is 15 year old Charlie, telling his thoughts and feelings on attending high school to an unknown reader through a series of letters. Shy and very naive, even so Charlie comes across as incredibly young – if it hadn’t been pointed out that he was a freshman I’d have pegged him for pre-teen. Meeting new friends, falling in love, going to parties and getting a girlfriend all feature in Charlie’s tale, as do incidents and histories of different types of abuse and well rendered episodes of anxiety and depression, leading to a final revelation that provides a little context for Charlie’s fragility.
While I initially found Charlie’s voice was a strong one, it was also inconsistent with how others heard and understood him. Apparently something of a prodigy when it came to literature comprehension and writing, Charlie’s letter were all filled with sharp, choppy sentences and a level of articulation that often seemed to me to be much younger than his 15 years, and while he may have apparently ‘seen’ so much more than others thanks to his wallflower tendencies, I felt his comprehension of what he was seeing wasn’t all it was constantly cracked up to be.
If I’d read this book when I was 20 or more years younger than I am now, it may well have resonated a lot more deeply with me and Charlie’s observations seemed a lot more profound – I may have even have joined the millions pasting quotes over images of rain on Pinterest. Instead, this middle-aged woman could only come up with a shrug.