The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a novel by Stephen Chbosky ( Book review) +Strange things about The Perks of Being a Wallflower that people don't seem to notice
I hate this novel with passion. There I said it. Before, I even got into reviewing it, I said it. I can't find a single thing I liked about this novel. So, before you continue reading this review, consider yourself warned. Paradoxically, I shot some rather nice photographs of this novel but make no mistake I was more than happy to return to the library. I should have trusted my gut feeling and given up after those first opening sentences, instead of going on to waste several hours of my life on something that is as best a poor excuse for a novel. I wish I have. I'm not going to say that I don't understand how some people can like this book because I do. I understand that some might find a message (perhaps even messages) in it or that some can find it touching because of the themes it deals with. I personally think that the author included those themes to emotionally blackmail readers into liking this book, but hey maybe that’s just me. If someone found The Perks of Being a Wallflower inspiring, I understand. What I don’t understand is how this book can be so popular. This book does not only contains some of the worst writing I have ever seen in my life, this book might just be the worst writing I have ever read. The writing style is a clear rip off from The Catcher in the Rye but beside plagiarism, it is also incredibly tiring. There are so many other issues to be found in this one, from character development to plot, this novel is, from my personal point of view, a complete disaster. However, what probably bothers me the most are all the strange things that nobody notices about this novel, most notably the way this novel portrays domestic violence and rape in such a casual way. There is literally one scene where a girl gets rapped and Charlie (our narrator) literally doesn't do anything about it. It's like, boys will be boys. The same happens when Charlie sees his sister being punched in the face by her boyfriend, he does nothing. I mean, how can that be normal?
What I didn’t like about this book in more detail? Sit down and pour yourself some coffee, for this will take a while.
I DIDN’T LIKE THE WAY THE NARRATOR (CHARLIE) SOUNDED LIKE A CHILD
First of all, the book is narrated by an adolescent, fifteenth to sixteen year old, but the sentences feel like they were written by an eight year old with serious learning difficulties. All of the sentences, the entire book. We’re not talking just bad grammar here, we’re talking downright imbecile writing. Teenagers don’t sound like this. Neither do younger kids. Nor do people with mental retardation. I remember reading one book written by a group of individuals with mental retardation and their sentences were nothing like the ones found in this book. Don’t try to pin it up to social anxiety or autism because there is no mention of autism in the novel and besides have you read anything written by someone with autism? It doesn’t sound like this. Who talks and writes like this? Not even a teen who smokes pot from morning to evening, nobody sounds like this. I suffered reading every sentence.
I kept thinking ‘If I see incidentally just one more, I’m going to kill myself’ but sure enough ‘Incidentally’ kept coming. Well, I didn’t kill myself but I was annoyed. And then annoyed some more. I noticed that the author kept some of the sentences exactly the same, repeating them in different situations, for instance Charlie says ‘he told me something I think I will never forget’ twice and you can feel how the other thinks what follows is some great wisdom. No, it’s not. I think the writer was trying to create a signature style but instead he just copied a bunch of sentences. Perhaps the writer wanted to show is that Charlie is learning to write so he added words like ‘incidentally’ to his idiotic sentences but it was just adding insult to injury. There are sentences like: ‘I never saw a film’ when what Charlie really means to say is: ‘I’ve never seen a foreign film.’ The writing is confusing on every level. It is not just the incredibly simplified vocabulary and idiotic sentences. Besides syntax, vocabulary, dialogues and sentence formation, the writing lacks - everything. The writing is horrible, just horrible. I don’t what this book sounds translated to other languages, maybe it is not as bad, but to read this novel in original language (English) is incredibly painful.
I DIDN’T LIKE THE NARRATOR AT ALL (NOT JUST THE WAY HE WROTE BUT EVERYTHING)
Second of all, let’s talk some more about our charming protagonist Charlie. When he sees a random girl get raped, what does he do? Nothing. I mean it is happening right in front of him and he doesn’t even say a word. What happens when a guy punches his sister in the face? Nothing. When his homosexual friend Patrick gets into a fight with his old lover Brad and his friends, what does Charlie do? Well, fights back and defend him. Because it is OK to defend yourself and other guys, but not girls. Ladies don’t deserve to be defended, is that the message that you’re trying to get across? I couldn’t help feeling like he feels that women deserves what happens to him. The way he casually speaks about women who are victims of domestic abuse was particularly annoying. It is like Charlie is saying, women will get punched by men, and it’s just the way it is. Boys will be boys. I mean if Charlie can fight somebody (and even a group) who attacks him or his gay friend, why can’t he defend his own sister, especially since he supposedly cares a great deal about? You don’t have to be very smart or mature to at least urge your sister (who is not much older than yourself) to get out of an abusive relationship. Does Charlie do that? No, Charlie just tells on her to his teacher and then when his sister gets back to the abusive boyfriend Charlie does nothing. If it was his precious gay friend, he would have done something, but not for his own blood. What to say about his relationship with his sister? Or Charlie’s relationship with his family? He says his parents are great a couple of times, but it’s all fishy. His mother is a shadowy character, and his dad is not much different but all the references to them feel empty. Charlie spends most of his time thinking about himself. There is also this girl Sam that he is in love with, but the way he acts about it is both selfish and mature. Charlie starts going out with another girl and the way he treats her is just mean, but what else can we expect? This gives us a wonderful opportunity (I’m being sarcastic in case you can’t tell) to read many chapters in which Charlie feels sorry for himself. Because it is just great reading about how Charlie cries and cries and feels sad and sad. My favourite sentence in the book is when Sam tells Charlie how he can be so stupid at times. If I could rewrite it into- Charlie you’re so stupid all the time, it would be perfect. Charlie is supposed to be this great guy because he says he wants to make even unconventionally pretty girls feel pretty, which is ridiculous because it just shows he is a hypocrite who believes that there is some kind of convention. All that PC stuff made me want to vomit.
I NEITHER LIKED NOR UNDERSTOOD OTHER CHARACTERS
Thirdly, why does everyone treat Charlie like a child, even teenagers who are his own age? Is there something about his appearance that makes him seem like an eight year old? If there is, shouldn’t we as readers know about it? Why does everyone rustle his hair like he is five? Why does that teacher keep giving Charlie A’s when the way he expresses himself is at best appropriate for a person starting elementary school, not high school. Let’s take a quick look at other characters. Patrick is a poor excuse for a human being but Charlie seems to adore him. Maybe because having a protagonist with a gay friend will sell more copies? What’s wrong with Patrick? First of all, he sleeps with another boy who is clearly intoxicated. Am I the only one who sees that’s potentially problematic? Then after they break up, Patrick sleeps around and kisses Charlie every night but Charlie says nothing because he is a good friend. WTF! WTF! Moving on to his sister Sam, who is another object of Charlie’s adoration. She makes no sense as a character. There are also a lot of confusing things in the relationship of Charlie and other characters. How does Charlie know exactly how Patrick and Brad have sex and who put what where? Did he see it? Why do people keep doing everything (make out, argue, have sex) in front of him? Am I the only one who notices this makes no sense? One can understand why Charlie’s family might treat him with special care because they are aware he had some kind of a mental breakdown when he was a little, but the rest just doesn’t make sense. Even his family isn’t consistent in the treatment of him.
I hate the condescending way every teenager in this book is portrayed. Do you know anything about teenagers? You know that an average person is pretty much intellectually developed when they reach adolescence? Take a look at any school curriculum if you don’t believe me. Take a look at what is actually being taught in high school. Adolescents and teenagers aren’t adults, but neither are they idiotic morons. I don’t see any sense in treating teenagers as very small children. With that I mind, the characters of teachers in this novel felt odd. Weren’t people who works with teenagers supposed to know something about them? I guess not. As far as I remember when I was 15 and 16 people didn’t talk to me like I was 6.
WHAT IS UP WITH THE CRYING?
Every few minutes, Charlie breaks into tears. ‘ I was sad. I cried’, that’s the best the writer can up with to describe an emotional state. He does it not only with Charlie but with other character. Why bother with telling us anything about characters? Why bother with writing the characters’ inner or psychological state when all you can do is write they were sad and cried. Yeah, that should do it. Thrown in every psychological trauma that you can think of and there you go, you got yourself a best seller. Some might say it is unfair emotional blackmail of readers, but don’t let that stop you.
I do for one feel that the author ( Stephen Chobsky) included every single psychological issue/trauma he could think of (just cramped it all in there) in hope of managing to emotionally blackmail readers into liking this book and while it worked out for him, I still think it's a cheap trick. At time it seems that just about everyone in this novel was sexually abused and molested. Every other character is an abuse victim, because that is easier than actually writing about them. Why bother with character development or descriptions when you can just write down they cried.
I DIDN’T LIKE THE PLOT
What is the plot anyway? There is this big revelation at the end of the novel, but the way it is handled is disturbing. Nobody is to blame for anything. Or wait they are. Or they aren’t. At any rate, the writer can’t decide. Who needs to write something that makes sense when you already emotionally manipulated readers into thinking your novel has some kind of an artistic value?
The only part of The Perks of Being a Wallflower that had some kind of message were the last two pages of the novel. Not a very inspiring message, it was a bit confusing to tell you the truth, but it was a message nevertheless. The rest was just retelling of events that didn’t capture my interest at all. There is this episode in which one teenage guy (Peter was it?) gets angry because another teenage guy cheats on his girlfriend and everyone acts like it’s the most dramatic thing that has ever happened. They all get worked out about it, including our righteous narrator. Because a teenage guy will totally freak out of another teenage guy cheating- that calls for an intervention. Not the rapes, abuses and so on. Cheating is this dramatic thing but all the same time, abuse is treated like it’s nothing. How is it a bigger deal when a guy cheats on his girlfriend than when someone child is abused or some girl is raped? How? This novel is not only poorly written but it makes absolutely no sense. The Perks of Being a Wallflower mentions a lot of great American novels, but it is far from being even a good novel. It is a horrible novel. It is not worth a read.