Thursday, 15 March 2012

the perks of being a wallflower

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by STEPHEN CHBOSKY
 “It's strange because sometimes, I read a book, and I think I am the people in the book.
Last week I was chatting with my friend and she mentioned that a re-read of The Perks of Being a Wallflower (TPoBaW) was necessary before she moved on to the next book in her pile. I admitted that although I had heard it mentioned many times, I hadn't ever actually read it myself. Her response (and that of a number of other people) made me afraid that I would be disowned if I didn't move Perks from my "to-read" to my "READ" pile ASAP.

Many people sent SHOUTY CAPS messages my way that night.
To be honest, I think I was afraid that it wouldn't meet my expectations (I know, I'm silly). It's been labelled a "cult sensation," and many of the people whose opinions I trust most have credited it with being not only one of their favourite books EVER, but a guiding influence in their lives. Kind of a lot of pressure for a tiny 200-odd page volume. I am incredibly happy to say that my fears were unfounded and my friends were all correct; it did not disappoint even the tiniest bit. In fact, all I've been saying to myself since is "HOW THE HELL HAD I NOT READ THIS UNTIL NOW?!" When I read, I mark quotes that I love so I can go back and find them again at a moment's notice.  If you don't do this, I recommend it; I bet you'll be hooked immediately (right, Jenn?!). Well, normally I have a handful of stickies per book, but this time...

That is a LOT of markers for 213 pages. o.O
Suffice it to say, Perks is chockablock FULL of amazing thoughts that you won't want to forget. A huge part of what makes them so memorable is the narrator, Charlie. He breathes life into this story in a way that I hadn't expected.  He writes letters to the readers, sharing his innermost thoughts and secrets, unloading the experiences he's having and cannot always deal with by himself.  It makes it incredibly intimate from the very first page, which is what immediately charmed me.

“There's nothing like deep breaths after laughing that hard. Nothing in the world like a sore stomach for the right reasons.”
How true is this?! Perhaps not a particularly profound statement, per se, but something very real and identifiable. Throughout Perks there were thoughts such as this one, which brings me back to the opening quote about feeling as if you yourself were one of the characters in a book. So many new books these days have some kind of twist where the main character has some incredible power, or the premise is a foreboding yet intriguing idea of what may be to come of our world. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE these dystopian/fantasy/sci fi/etc. tales so much. But sometimes what you want most is a story where you slip into the characters' shoes and then are startled back into reality after realising you've been walking with them step-for-step as they undergo their fictional, yet at the same time real, journey.

“I decided then that when I met someone I thought was as beautiful as the song, I should give it to that person. And I didn't mean beautiful on the outside. I meant beautiful in all ways. So, I was giving it to Sam.” 
The way this gesture makes me feel. You guys. Music is so important. Books are my number one love, but there's no way I could live without music, either. So the sentiment here hits me right where it counts. It's not some lavish gift or over the top anything. It's from his heart. That's what I love so much about Charlie; he is this pure, honest guy who doesn't fit in with his stereotypical teenage group, but rather finds his own little niche. I can't handle it. The song he's referring to is Asleep by The Smiths, which I think transitions perfectly into another quote I loved:



The fact that this is typewritten fits in with everything so perfectly. <3
This is another aspect of Perks that just blew me away. Charlie is young, but wise beyond his years. Yet it never comes across as condescending. His tone is always so spot on it makes your heart ache a little. He's simultaneously innocent and far from it; in some ways his youth has been stolen from him. Being on the receiving end of his point of view is an experience that I just don't think I can describe eloquently enough.
 

I mean...just whoa.
Eight words that made me just stop. It's not even that these quotes are delivered in huge, sweeping moments. He just slips them in with the rest of his story and they can bowl you right over. I let people know I love them all the time; maybe even to the point of excess? But then I read something like this and it just puts it all into perspective again. The people in my life, and Charlie's in Perks, deserve that love, and so they continue to get it. After that one can only hope that the receivers know just how much it is meant.

“And I thought the last person who said that about me was me Aunt Helen. I was very grateful to have heard it again. Because I guess we all forget sometimes. And I think everyone is special in their own way. I really do.”
Charlie just makes me want to cry sometimes. I want to hug him and reassure him of exactly what he just said, that everybody is special.  He spends the book sharing himself with his friends and family, and while he's not perfect, he's sincere in all the ways that count. It makes you want to tell him a thousand more times that he's special, and that his story is affecting you in a big way. Just yesterday my lovely Emma shared a quote that ties in perfectly; I think it fits Charlie and his group snugly:
“Don’t you dare, for one more second, surround yourself with people who are not aware of the greatness that you are.” - Jo Blackwell-Preston

Oh! I have to mention the books. Charlie, just like all of us, is a lover of books. His teacher gives him novels beyond those covered in class because he knows Charlie can reach and explore. Books are such a personal thing, when you think about it, so the way Charlie discusses and shares them means a great deal more than you might initially assume.

Maybe you've heard this quote before, but now that I know the context and the character who voiced it to the universe, it's honestly even more perfect:

FAVOURITE FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER.
At its core, this is a love story. Maybe not a traditional one in terms of start to finish, but one about acceptance and joy and sorrow and every emotion that you experience on that roller coaster ride.  Of all the quotes I've shared (and there are about a million more), the one above is my favourite. Because those infinite moments? They're what life's all about.



What I love about this book is its evocation of depth, both in thoughts and feelings, through simplicity. It is not a difficult read in terms of the prose, but the ideas it puts forward and the quotes that are now branded in my mind are important and often all-encompassing. One fictional high school boy's freshman experiences and relationships translate into something that touches everyone, which I find truly incredible.


I own a paperback copy of this book, and that's all I've seen in bookstores in my area. But Perks is 100% worthy of the hardcover rating for its quality and what it made me feel.



A/N: I know I gushed, but it had to be done. I truly can't believe no one has made me read this until now (they probably all thought I had already lol)! It's being made into a movie with Logan Lerman and Emma Watson and I AM SO EXCITED I CAN'T EVEN HANDLE IT. The rest of the cast is fantastic as well, and while there's not a trailer out yet, it certainly seems perfect so far. So, if you're like me and late to the party, join in!! Then we need to talk about Charlie and Perks and how sometimes, you're infinite in a moment. <3

I hope you all have wonderful weekends! HUNGER GAMES NEXT WEEK. BE EXCITED. I'll be back with another book to chat about on Tuesday. ILY bibliophiles.

Kate xx

25 comments:

  1. MyCleverAlias15 March 2012 08:04

    It's a testament both to this book and your depth of feeling for it that just this review brought tears to my eyes.

    I'm buying it tonight.

    More to follow. <333

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    1. That means so much to me you have no idea. I can't wait for you to read and discuss further.

      xx

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  2. Emma. The Other One.15 March 2012 08:26

    KATIE-BABY. I'm finally opening up my (slightly worse for wear due to a bathtub vs paperback incident) copy of Perks this weekend, and you have made me ENDLESSLY EXCITED to finally start after reading your review! Wish we could all see the film together when it comes out.

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    1. Emma, the love I have for you. That book has been on a journey for you to read it; I think it's so perfect, considering it is all about Charlie going on his journey!

      I can't wait for you to read and for us to promptly talk about it. I wish we could see the movie together, too. Maybe when it's out on DVD we can all have a watch along?! I'm putting that idea on the table.

      xx

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  3. I LOVE your love of books! Your review made me super excited to read. All the little snippets that you included were beautiful! I love you for always bringing such wonderful books into my life ♥

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    1. JESS!

      Gahhh, I love that you're joining me as I babble endlessly about how much I love them. Seriously, you will love all those quotes in context (and many, many more) when you read! Can't wait to talk about it all.

      I think my heart is going to explode so I'll finish up by saying I love you, too, and let's ALWAYS talk books.

      xx

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  4. My beautiful Girl...When I heard you hadn't read 'Perks' yet, I felt that my heart would burst out of my chest. Simply because I knew that when you DID read it, you were en route to a miracle. It has been years, YEARS since I've read it, but your impeccable recounting of your reactions to its profound prose only prompts me to re-read it today...and maybe every day.

    'We Were Infinite'--your favorite quote--is also my absolute favorite. I can't recall the exact reasons why I picked up 'Perks' to read so long ago, but I can remember feeling aimless, restless and disconnected at the time. Charlie and I were in a neighboring age bracket. I had graduated high school and was wading through the agony and elation of "selecting a course for study" in my early years of college. How Charlie, this sincere and sage young man effected me in such a profound way, was a mystery to me. No, I recant that. It wasn't a mystery--it WAS his authenticity and willingness to be vulnerable that touched me so. I just didn't have the words for my process.

    YOU, my dear, DO. You have an eloquence and grace in your words, much like our special, beautiful Charlie. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us and introducing 'the perks of being a wallflower' to a new audience. Sometimes we all just need a nudge, a reminder. We are essential. We are unique. We are Infinite.
    Always, KJ

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    1. Your comments always leave me soaring, ma belle. I feel like this is one of those books that's special because there are universal messages that are always applicable to every person, and then there are others that are more relevant given who you are and where you are in life.

      I know it's one that I'll be re-reading again and again, and I can't wait to see how Charlie speaks to me next time. It means the world to me that you think my words do books like this one justice, because I often find it daunting to try and summarise what I'm feeling into one coherent post - I know this is something you understand more than anyone.

      Until the next fantastic book (or Musings post! SO happy you're back), I love you you.

      xx

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  5. L(alotmoreofmagic)15 March 2012 13:39

    "So many new books these days have some kind of twist where the main character has some incredible power, or the premise is a foreboding yet intriguing idea of what may be to come of our world. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE these dystopian/fantasy/sci fi/etc. tales so much. But sometimes what you want most is a story where you slip into the characters' shoes and then are startled back into reality after realising you've been walking with them step-for-step as they undergo their fictional, yet at the same time real, journey."

    Oh Kate, the above quote taken from your review resonated with me. I've followed you for barely months on twitter and then I read something like this and I think I am among my people, for this so describes me.

    I love fantasy, scifi, dystopia and I love imagining new worlds. But the ones that bring me to tears, make me feel so much, rip me apart are books like these.

    I read PERKS as a part of a group of books when a friend recommended WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN. 13 REASONS WHY, HATE LIST, WINTERGIRLS and SPEAK (re-read) were also part of this reading list.

    I intentionally avoid reading books like these because it makes me feel so much, I cry and it is not a comfortable read as say a fantasy/sci fi/dystopian read. Even dystopian books like DIVERGENT, SHATTER ME, HUNGER GAMES don't make me feel this way. But books like PERKS are necessary because they open up our eyes to human experiences not necessarily our own and by reading these fictional, yet realistic journeys I feel we empathize more.

    One of my favorite quotes is

    "Books are the windows through which the soul looks out" - Henry Warder Beech

    Love this quote again from your review
    "Music is so important. Books are my number one love, but there's no way I could live without music, either."

    I listened to E.S.Posthumus, Hans Zimmer, even Lacrimosa when reading those particular sets of books.

    As for the movie, I have a bad tendency to skip movies in the theater for books Iike if I don't like the cast. I am on the fence about the Hunger Games, and have already decided I will not see 13 REASONS WHY in a theater based on the rumored lead. Logan and Emma in the movie make me want to see it. I will be shocked though if it is better than the book because only one movie has that ever been true for me and it has shockingly been BREAKING DAWN.

    I've been writing this comment for almost the entire day. I have constantly been interrupted by something so when I hit the publish button hope my jumbled thoughts make sense.

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    1. L,

      I've said it before and I know I'll say it again, I'm so glad that we've connected through this crazy community we're a part of! I completely agree, we've certainly found our people, which is a very rare and wonderful thing.

      That is QUITE the reading list. I still have to read We Need to Talk about Kevin and Hate List, but I've already read 13 Reasons Why, Speak and Wintergirls, and I've loved every single ones. They're all heavier reads, but they certainly have stayed with me long after I've closed the book.

      "Books are the windows through which the soul looks out" is SUCH beautiful quote, and I just know I'll be using it in a post one day, so thank you so much for sharing it.

      MUSIC. Well, we're just going to have to talk about that more in depth at some point, too! I love all types (except maybe country, of which I'm not so fond), and one of the best feelings is finding a lesser known group and reveling in their sound.

      Thank you so much for always writing such lovely comments. It can take me forever to respond to them, but I appreciate your comments and thoughts more than words can say.

      xx

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    2. P.S. I just noticed a bunch of typos above, I apologise!

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  6. This review made me all teary.

    I should start by saying that I finished the book about 30 minutes ago, and I'm already feeling like I need to go back a re-read it a bit. And then hug it.

    This book is just beautiful, BEAUTIFUL. So filled with immense moments of infinity that we all have but sometimes don't acknowledge. This book makes me want to be more aware, better, i don't even know how to describe this feeling.

    I think I'm giving my mom a present on my next birthday...

    Love this review, and YOU! You deserve ALL the love!

    I feel a little bit infinite when we share book love like this.

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    1. I just KNEW you'd love this book in a big way. Isn't Charlie just the most perfect guy? Not in the traditional swoony way, either, which I kind of love. That's just it, though, this book is unlike all the others. It's just what you need even when you don't know you need it.

      So perfect to give as a gift; I think I'll have to copy that idea myself.

      LOVING YOU RIGHT BACK, OKAY?! And you know how I feel about your closing thought. Too much. <3

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  7. Soo I need to go buy this book right away and read it and then read this review again and cry all over again. I will keep you posted but omg I cannot wait to read this now.

    C xo

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    1. C!

      I can't wait for you to read it either omgggg. Let me know as soon as you do and we'll cry together.

      I hope you're feeling better already. <3

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  8. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE these dystopian/fantasy/sci fi/etc. tales so much. But sometimes what you want most is a story where you slip into the characters' shoes and then are startled back into reality after realising you've been walking with them step-for-step as they undergo their fictional, yet at the same time real, journey.

    truer words have never been spoken!! omg i mean i also LOVE all those fictional stories, where people have super powers or even if they're living in the "real" world, it's somehow fucked up. reading about something real, though fictional, is totally different. i don't wanna necessary say better, but in a way i guess it's better, because you can just relate to it so much easier.

    this book has been on my to-read list for quite a while now. but since that list just keeps getting longer and longer, it's so hard to always choose what to read next. but after reading this post i'm definitely going to move that to the top places on that list, because obviously i need to read this asap!

    also absolutely LOVE that last quote from the book. i mean how true is that?!? omg i can't even handle it.

    can i just also say that this blog is the best thing ever <3

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    1. Only if I can say that YOU are the best thing ever! I've been so slow replying to this set of comments, but I LOVE that you always stop by and write something, please know that. <3

      EXACTLY. I think that we all need a balance of "real" vs. dystopian, etc. books. I find that it's easier these days to find the dystopian ones, which sometimes makes me feel like I'm on a binge. This was the perfect break from that; I can't for you to read and experience it, too!

      Sooo many good quotes omg! You will pretty much find at least one on every page. I so empathise with the "what to read next" dilemma!!! I have about three that I wish I could be reading simultaneously right now. There's just so much goodness out there, which I guess we can't complain about too much. :D

      ILY.

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  9. HEY GUESS WHAT. (and don't shoot!) I HAVE NOT READ THIS BOOK.

    And I'm honestly not sure that I want to. I've heard nothing but great things, but I'm always a bit put off by things like drug use in stories, even though I know that's so minor in this book. I'll probably read it though because 200 pages is harmless, so even if I hate it (which is apparently impossible) I really won't have lost anything. Plus, I am a quoter. I love quoting things at people and people hate it bc it's always so over the top and nobody really gets it. I guess I have a hard time relating to people. I'm kind of a freak that way.

    I love you. And I so look forward to the day you review something I've read so I can gush at you better bc my reviews feel so boring. Creys.

    Anyway. <333

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    1. I WILL NOT SHOOT! I think it's one that you sort of have to find in your own time, even after it's been rec'd to you, you know? Even though I had a barrage of people saying "READ!" I'd had my eye on this one for awhile, so I figured that was my sign.

      I hear you about the drug use thing. I promise it's not a large part of Charlie's story, and I can pretty much assure you that the quotes will make up for it. OH, THE QUOTES! Angie you will love. They all apply to situations we're all in, too, so it's even better.

      Also, you should give me a list of ones that are your favourites/that you'd like me to review here so I can keep them in the back of my head! I always love ideas for posts.

      But more than that, I love YOU.

      xx

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  10. Thank you, again, for your lovely review that made me get this book and read it in less than 24 hours. I stayed up until 3:30 this morning and was angry that my eyes betrayed me and closed before I could finish.

    I was able to finish it this morning while I was supposed to be working (haha, priorities, I HAVE THEM) but literally could not focus until I had completed the journey with Charlie.

    I read a lot. Not all of it quality fiction, mind you but I read a lot. This book affected me in a way I haven't been affected by a book in a long, long time. I am so grateful to you for recommending Perks, the gift of introducing someone to an amazing book is the best gift ever.

    xoxoxo
    Laura

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    1. LAURA!

      I wish I could tell you how much your support, comments and love mean to me. I really don't think I can, but just know that it's more than I can say.

      I am THRILLED that this was a "stay up all night" read for you. It takes a special book to do that, and I think Charlie's story is completely worthy. I am so in line with those priorities, as I'm sure you know lol! Isn't it amazing how a story that's really quite short can have such a profound effect? My mind is still blown.

      I am grateful to YOU for understanding what it's like to share a special book - here's to many more in the future.

      ily xx

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  11. I NEED TO FIND THIS BOOK. I've heard about it a lot but my bloody damn country doesn't sell it yet -_________- I went to Texas like 2 weeks ago and while I was in B&N I totally forgot about it!!!! and I'm hating my life and my choices right now for that reason.

    that song, that song made me feel so many things, God. I can only say I NEED THIS BOOK.

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    1. Dulce!!!!!

      You DO need this book! Have you been able to find it yet? If you can't, let me know.

      One way or another it will find its way into your hands, so the story can find its way into your head. It just needs to happen.

      xx

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  12. I've knew this book (I mean title) and some quotes (by heart) from it for ages, but I haven't read it. YET.
    Weird, isn't it?
    But those quotes have this enormous power that I'm not surprised they're popular and "have their own lives". Do you know what I mean? Good :P
    I need to get my own copy of the perks and discover the rest of this beautiful story ASAP.

    Love you,
    A, xx

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    1. I think that's the wonderful thing about Perks, even if you haven't read it (yet), you know it. Very few books are like that, so this one obviously is something special.

      I COMPLETELY KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN ABOUT THE QUOTES. They DO have their own lives and I love that people have already seen many of them. I think they'll mean even more to you once you've read them in the context of Charlie's story.

      Please let me know whenever you get Perks and give it a read so we can talk more about it.

      I love you more than Sherlock loves telling Anderson to shut up and get out.

      xx

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