Charlie is a freshman. And while he’s not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs and the Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect dive to feel infinite. But Charlie can’t stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.
Okay, so, I have a lot to say about this book and I don’t think that a lot of you are going to agree with me or like what I’m about to say. But, nonetheless, I hope you won’t hate me :P.
I started reading this book after it was voted for the most in a poll I posted. I knew it was popular because of the film that recently came out and a lot of people were saying some really good things about it. I was really excited to read it and I was expecting a lot. Unfortunately, I didn’t like this book. At all.
From the very beginning I noticed that there was something off. He talked about Michael, a sort of friend of his, that recently killed himself. You’d think that this is something very emotional and gripping but it didn’t capture me. It didn’t make me feel connected to Charlie. Then, very soon in the book, I encountered something that made me VERY uncomfortable. I’m not counting this as a spoiler because it’s literally page 13 of the book so right at the beginning. What happens is that Charlie witnesses his sister being hit by her boyfriend after she tells him that he needs to stand up for himself, defend himself against bullies. Charlie sees this but doesn’t do or even say anything. What’s worse is that his sister being hit is rationalized.
“I guess he stood up to his bully. And I guess that makes sense.”
After I read that line I was like .. whoa.. because even if the writer had made a big deal out of it later (which he sorta does but not in a direct way), that right there, that single sentence sends a message to young boys and girls who are reading this book. And if they are not able to read between the lines yet, it could be very very dangerous. Especially since she stays with him despite her parents forbidding her to.
Another similar scene happens a little later in the book ( on page 33) where a girl is being raped with Charlie literally in the room. And again, there is no intervening, no repercussions, no consequences. Even more so, the guy who raped his date is later mentioned playing in a football game. What?
So, needless to say I wasn’t off to a good start. But I kept reading. The moment when I wanted to close the book and put it away forever was at a conversation that Charlie had with his teacher.
“Do you always think this much, Charlie?
“Is that bad?” I just wanted someone to tell me the truth.
“Not necessarily. It’s just that sometimes people use thought to not participate in life.”
“Is that bad?”
“I think I participate, though. Don’t you think I am?”
“Well, are you dancing at these dances?”
“I’m not a very good dancer.”
“Are you going on dates?”
After that it trails off with Charlie talking about not owning a car etcetera. Honestly, I was actually really angry when I read that. So what? If you don’t go to dances or even if you don’t dance while you’re at dances or if you don’t go on dates you’re not participating in life? What the hell is wrong with people wanting to think instead of ‘participating’ in events that they don’t necessarily enjoy? Is that the message you want to put out there? “You better go to these dances or else you’re not doing your life right! Oh and please, stop thinking so much.” I’m sorry but I am that girl who’d rather sit at home and read a book than go out to some busy club where I will be spending money that I don’t have while I’m absolutely not having a good time. Does that mean I’m not participating in life? I think not. Mr Chbosky, don’t make teenagers feel like they’re doing something wrong if they’re not going on dates or going to dances. Let them make their own choice in how to ‘participate’.
Okay.. rant over. I’m sorry. That just really bothered me.
One thing that I noticed throughout this book is that Charlie sounds really young. He is supposed to be 15 – 16 but often, most of the time actually, he sounds like he is 12 years old. Not only in the way he speaks but also in his life experiences. I mean, have you heard of a 15-year-old boy who doesn’t know what masturbation is? Or a 15-year-old boy who will run to a girl who is 3 years older he barely knows, who he is in love with, to tell her that he had a wet dream about her and then cries about it? No? Neither have I. What I think happened is that Charlie is supposed to be extremely intelligent. It even says so on the blurb “intelligent beyond his years”, but I think that it was taken too far. To me, it seems like Chbosky wanted to write the new “Catcher in the Rye”, writing about a young boy in a troubling phase in his life, observing the world around him while he’s trying to figure it all out. Except, he didn’t quite succeed. Charlie may be very intelligent but it didn’t translate. He seems socially awkward to the point where I would suspect a disorder in the Austism Spectrum. It is passages like “Trying not to think of her that way”, in regards to Sam because she asked him not to and “it makes me deep down sad” when talking about depression, that make me think that it doesn’t sound like a 15-year-old (later even 16-year-old) at all.
So, no, I didn’t like this book. I thought the ending was especially disappointing. I mean, didn’t enough happen in the book? The point was clear, ya know? When I read it I was like ‘Oh come ON.. enough already’. I found it unnecessary to take the memories of this one person he truly had a good bond with and turn it into something traumatic. I think that if he had cut that part out, it would have made for a better book. Because, I started to mind it less towards the end. But then that happened and I was back to disliking it.
I’m rating this book a 2 out of 5 because it has it’s moments. I liked Patrick and I liked the part where he helps his sister. But, on the other hand, I had trouble finishing. In all fairness, I probably won’t be reading it again. I hope you all don’t hate me! Please don’t hate me!
I picked 2 quotes to share with you all. Ironically, one isn’t written by Chbosky, it’s from the Fountainhead. The other one is said by Sam near the end.
“I would die for you, but I won’t live for you.”
“[..] I was just trying to be a friend,” I said.
“But you weren’t, Charlie. At those times, you weren’t being his friend at all. Because you weren’t honest with him.””