My journey with The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a long one. I first read the book when I was in high school, not long after it was released in 1999.I read it for the second time immediately after I finished the first reading. I remember as a teenager thinking that this book perfectly captured some of the struggles of high school. Even though Charlie and I had very little in common in terms of our experiences, I remember understanding his feelings of “outsiderness” and confusion. My next foray into Perks was in 2012 when the movie was released. I hadn’t read the book in over 12 years, and though I still counted it as one of my favorites, I had forgotten some of the details and so of course found myself a sobbing mess in the theater.
Now here I am, having completed my most recent reading of Chbosky’s first novel, and I am feeling all the same things I felt 16 years ago, plus even more. Reading it this time around, I found myself, as Bill suggested to Charlie, being a filter rather than a sponge. I was struck by how observant and thoughtful Charlie is, how he seemed to be so beyond his age, an “old soul” if you will. I realize that these are the qualities that are supposed to stand out about him, but I don’t know if in my previous readings I really GOT Charlie.
I think what struck me most was how he seemed to realize at such a young age that everyone has something they are dealing with. Some may be dealing with a more serious situation than others, but it doesn’t make anyone else’s problems disappear. Obviously, as I had read the book before and seen the movie, I knew what was coming with Aunt Helen, but in this latest reading, I found myself so angry when Charlie wrote to “friend” that he loved Aunt Helen for buying him two presents AFTER he remembered what she had done to him. I fumed and honestly almost put the book down. Then I started thinking about what he actually said. He loved Aunt Helen for what she did (buying him two presents) not necessarily for who she was. He could ignore the badness to appreciate something good she had done for him. Now, I don’t think I could EVER forgive what Aunt Helen did nor do I think she should be forgiven, but the concept – the idea that even people who have done terrible things are capable of good – is beautiful in a way.
I’ll end this the same way Charlie did. His final thoughts to Friend perfectly capture an ideal outlook for life. Life will be full of challenges, and have its ups and downs, but you have to always remember that even in the lowest, deepest down, there is always the potential for an up.
Please believe that things are good with me,
and even when they’re not,
they will be soon enough.
PS This is my first postpartum blog post, so please forgive me if it’s a little disjointed – my brain still feels a bit like scrambled eggs!