Maybe I was in a bad mood when I read it, or maybe I’m just getting old, but for some reason, the only perk I encountered while reading this collection of angsty journal entries as novel from the good people at MTV books was relief and joy when it was finally over.
I think one of my biggest problems with the book was the challenging suspension of reality it required. “Wallflower” here is basically a euphemistic catch-all for anyone who does not fit in in high school. In particular, your main character/journal writer Charlie. More than just a kind of shy kid who happens to be nice and interesting once you get to know him, Charlie is held out as a sort of social leper hero. Despite his personal challenges, which make school difficult, and attendance impossible for sometimes lengthy stretches, he is a genius. Of course. As the author lets us know, numerous times, via “ah shucks'” comments made in calculated passing by Charlie himself (at one point his favorite English teacher apparently asks him “Charlie, do you know how smart you are?”) (this despite the fact that the journal entry itself appears to have been written using about a 5th grade vocabulary) (I told you reality was suspended).
Also, despite the fact that he plays no sports, does not exercise or lift weights, and has no fight training, if you get on his bad side, he, as a freshman in high school, can obliterate numerous members of the varsity football team with his bare hands, apparently by sheer force of will- and/or super-power, because there is no other plausible explanation.
Also, the premise that two somewhat alternative but super-cool step-siblings, Sam and Patrick, as seniors in high school, would take the socially awkward freshman Charlie under their pet-project hungry wings, or even acknowledge his existence at all, requires perhaps the biggest reality suspension of all.
Also, and I could be getting nitpicky now, but I don’t think the author ever addresses just what exactly are the perks of being a wallflower. I don’t know if there are any perks. I think he just liked the sound of the title. But hey, he wouldn’t be the first. And it is petty darn catchy.
Also, and I know this is getting nitpicky, but I’m not sure I agree with the author’s understanding/use of the term “wallflower.”
Okay, okay, I didn’t hate everything about the book. The “I want to make sure the first person you kiss loves you” scene could melt even the coldest, grinchiest heart.
Or the thoughtful observation “I was in my bed trying to figure out why sometimes you can wake up and go back to sleep and other times you can’t.” Because who hasn’t been there?
Or the intensely thoughtful observation, as presented through a spirited monologue from Sam, about how loving people means more than just sitting there and listening, that constantly putting other people’s lives ahead of your own does not count as love (though I’m still not really sure what that means, and in certain contexts at least, would disagree), or why we should care whether someone loves us or not when they don’t even really know us. Not really.
MTV made it into a movie as well (actually, knowing MTV, they probably envisioned it as a movie first, and let the book go forward as an interest-generating screenplay rough draft). I saw the movie, and I guess that can be the subject of its own blog entry. Or not. But the casting choices were…interesting. The relationships conveyed in the book…did not come off visually/chemistry-wise at all like I would have pictured them from the book. But the music was good, and the cinematography visually compelling. Which I guess is about as much as you can expect from MTV.
In true MTV fashion, both the book and the movie attempted to cram as many edgy teen-impacting social issues (e.g. underage drinking/drug use, sexuality, suicide, mental illness) into 200 pages/2 hours as possible.
I’m not fully sure why I disliked it so much. If I missed something, please let me know.