Tuesday, May 22, 2012

On 'Perks of Being A Wallflower'

A coming-of-age story of a boy which tackles issues like sex, love, family, and friendship, Perks of Being A Wallflower is a book to which one can relate to in more ways than one. That feeling of being aware of other people around, wondering how and what they are feeling at the moment. That feeling of being recognized which marks the beginning of being conscious of how you want to act in contrary to what you think others want you to act. That feeling of wanting to be with friends, how their company makes each second precious, and how their absence makes life somewhat dull. That feeling of first love and how it doesn't easily go away. That feeling of always wanting to be reminded that you are loved--especially by the first people you came to know: your family.

Perks of Being A Wallflower is the story of a year's happenings in a fifteen-year old boy's life. It is written in a way that he talks to "a friend" through letters, giving the reader the sense that they are delving into someone else's diary. Since Charlie, the protagonist, narrates his story as it happens, the things he talks about can get too random sometimes. He also deviates from the topic so often which I find amusing because that's how I am too most of the time. But what is more fascinating is that those random digressions from the main topic are actually kind of interesting. Think of the rat experiment.

I also adore Charlie as a character, mainly because he thinks a lot. He overanalyses things and I'd like to believe it as a sign of genius.  He is a keen observer and he draws theories and conclusions from what he has seen. I don't know if it's because of his age, but I noticed that Charlie seem to cry a lot. And it isn't just the sniffing type of sob--the book said "cried really hard." Maybe it meant he is in touch with his emotion. Well, one can deduce it from how he connects with his family, how open he is in telling them he loves them, and how meticulous he is about choosing that personalized gift for the people he cares about.

I try to give insights to the other facets of the story like homosexuality, sex, drugs, molestation and abortion but those aspects did not stick that much to me. Except maybe for the realization that these things did happen to teenagers in America during year 1991!

If I were to choose among the parts of the story I find most striking, I'd have to pick three.

First is the feeling of "being one with the air." You savor that perfect weather, the right amount of air brushing against your face, and the ideal song playing in the background. Then you understand what it means to feel infinite.

The second one is when Sam advised Charlie to act honestly. She said "it's okay to feel things. And be who you are about them." Like him, I am one who gets too concerned about how other people will feel if I act the way I wanted. I therefore put them first before me and act "dishonestly." I guess Charlie and  I am right in it in the sense that we're being sensitive and considerate. But then again, maybe our theory of what other people want us to act is not exactly what they want. It becomes a lose-lose situation. And so, maybe what Sam is trying to say is to just wing it? According to her, if the other person does not want what Charlie did, he or she will most probably tell him. I hope so, or else Sam's logic won't work. Until now I am still confused between "being yourself" and "being someone other people want to see." The former may be liberating, but the latter actually is more practical and saves you the hassle of explaining yourself for being true to who you want to be. I don't know. Still working on this one.

Finally, the last most striking part for me is this: "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." This doesn't just apply in the life-changing situations but also to the fleeting ones we find ourselves in. For me, it translates as simply living in the present. Of course looking back is necessary because what happened in the past is important in molding us to become who we are now. But that remains as it is--our past--and we can do nothing about that anymore. And so, if we want something changed and we'd like to see it in the future, working on it now is the best way to get started. 

Rating: 3.5/5

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