I was the kind of kid who always had her nose stuck in a book. The quiet one that once you got to know her wouldn’t stop talking. I spent a lot of time alone, daydreaming, writing. The one that some people just wanted to get to know and needed me in their lives while others loved to hate me – quite literally.
I didn’t find The Perks of Being a Wallflower until I was in my 20s and now I have a quote from the book forever tattooed on me. I found the book during Christmas break and thought from the book blurb that I could relate to Charlie. 213 pages later and I have never drifted further into a book that was so relatable before. Since then it has never left my mind or my heart, Stephen Chbosky forever changed my life.
For any of you who are not familiar with the book or the corresponding movie (which I loved just as much), here is a brief summary. The novel is written from the perspective of Charlie and a series of letters that he wrote to an anonymous friend. Charlie, a teenager entering his freshman year of high school, will tell you about events that have taken place in his life over a year. Everything that Charlie writes about is candid and raw. They involve a mix of the usual and then the uncommon teenage problems: sex, drugs, loneliness, suicide, homosexuality, pregnancy, and that awkward stage in your life. Charlie is your, our wallflower, we see everything through his eyes as he sits back and watches. Opening the novel you are given the general theme with a line that Charlie has written, “So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.” Simple but so complex. It hit me in every crevice because I could and still do relate.
It’s strange because sometimes, I read a book, and I think I am the people in the book
To say that Charlie and I have a lot in common would be putting it mildly. There are so many points throughout the novel where I had to just put it down and step back. How, at my age, could I relate so well. How does Stephen Chbosky know exactly what I am thinking, what I have always thought. I can’t tell you how many times I wondered if I had written a series of letters how much overlap there would be in telling my story. Reading and rereading this novel gives me such a sense of deja vu, it is overwhelming.
Maybe it is the way Charlie feels about love and heartbreak:
She took me to her room and stood me in front of her dresser, which was covered in a pillowcase with pretty colors. She lifted off the pillowcase, and there I was, standing in my old suit, looking at an old typewriter with a fresh ribbon. Inside the typewriter was a piece of white paper.
On that piece of white paper, Sam wrote, “Write about me sometime.” And I typed something back to her, standing right there in her bedroom. I just typed.
And I felt good that those were the first two words that I ever typed on my new old typewriter that Sam gave me. We just sat there quiet for a moment, and she smiled. And I moved to the typewriter again, and I wrote something.
“I love you, too.”
And Sam looked at the paper, and she looked at me.
“Charlie . . . have you ever kissed a girl?”
I shook my head no. It was so quiet.
“Not even when you were little?”
I shook my head no again. And she looked very sad.
She told me about the first time she was kissed. She told me that it was with one of her dad’s friends. She was seven. And she told nobody about it except for Mary Elizabeth and then Patrick a year ago. And she started to cry. And she said something that I won’t forget. Ever.
“I know that you know that I like Craig. And I know that I told you not to think of me that way. And I know that we can’t be together like that. But I want to forget all those things for a minute. Okay?”
“I want to make sure that the first person you kiss loves you. Okay?”
Okay.” She was crying harder now. And I was, too, because when I hear something like that I just can’t help it.
“I just want to make sure of that. Okay?”
And she kissed me. It was the kind of kiss that I could never tell my friends about out loud. It was the kind of kiss that made me know that I was never so happy in my whole life.
Maybe it is the way his opinions about growing up and feeling upset resonates with me:
I think that if I ever have kids, and they are upset, I won’t tell them that people are starving in China or anything like that because it wouldn’t change the fact that they were upset. And even if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn’t really change that you have what you have.
Or his thoughts on life:
Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody.
And how we will always be trying to figure out who we are:
So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.
Or the way he feels like he is crippled with doubt:
I don’t know if you’ve ever felt like that. That you wanted to sleep for a thousand years. Or just not exist, Or just not be aware that you do exist. Or something like that. I think wanting that is very morbid, but I want it when I get like this. That’s why I’m trying not to think. I just want it all to stop spinning.
How he allows music to take him to other places and affect his yearning:
If you listen to the song ‘Asleep’ and you think about those pretty weather days that make you remember things, and you think about the prettiest eyes you’ve ever known, and you cry, and the person holds you back, then I think you will see the photograph. I am really in love with Sam, and it hurts very much.
Or just his thoughts on shared experiences:
And all the books you’ve read have been read by other people. And all the songs you’ve loved have been heard by other people. And that girl that’s pretty to you is pretty to other people. And that if you looked at these facts when you were happy, you would feel great because you are describing ‘unity.’
And his thoughts on living in the moment:
I wanted to laugh. Or maybe get mad. Or maybe shrug at how strange everybody was, especially me. I think the idea is that every person has to live for his or her own life and then make the choice to share it with other people. You can’t just sit there and put everybody’s lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can’t. You have to do things. I’m going to do what I want to do. I’m going to be who I really am. And I’m going to figure out what that is. And we could sit around and wonder and feel bad about each other and blame a lot of people for what they did or didn’t do or what they didn’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I guess there could always be someone to blame. It’s just different. Maybe it’s good to put things in perspective, but sometimes, I think that the only perspective is really to be there. Because it’s okay to feel things. I was really there. And that was enough to make me feel infinite. I feel infinite.
Charlie watches, listens, reads, and thinks too much. He blames himself for the bad things that happen and he thinks he will never fit in. He’s an emotional human. He falls too fast and too hard. He cares a lot and it can be overwhelming. He really does have no idea how special he really is. I have been described in this way too, using many of the exact same words, by the people who are close to me – the ones who know my heart. So, when I stop to think about it, I am a wallflower too. Yes, I have matured a lot over the years but there will always be those strings that are attached that make me who I am, I have embraced them – just like I hope Charlie came to embrace the beautiful soul that he is. Loneliness will always feel the same. Just like fear, hope, failure. The songs that impacted me when I was younger still make me feel the same feelings. The books I pick up that were filled with life lessons continue to teach me something after multiple read-throughs. Having my heartbroken, feels… the same but worse in ways. Falling in love makes it all worth it though.
I am glad I took the time to revisit this novel, it certainly won’t be the last. Reading Perks will always leave me enlightened. It taught me a great deal about myself and where I have been and, where I am going.
And if you were or are ever feeling like you don’t fit in or will never. If you feel like you are not enough or special. I will leave you with this:
I just want you to know that you’re very special… and the only reason I’m telling you is that I don’t know if anyone else ever has.