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Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I might as well start by admitting that my literary choices do not always match those of the rest of the world.

I really REALLY loved Twilight. The WHOLE series. I have never read any books as many times as I have read those.

But it is not because they are great works of art. It is because I find them entertaining and enjoyable. I like to read about hot vampires and werewolves. I especially liked how Stephenie Meyer’s writing style reminded me of reading something my best friend would have written.

And I KNOW that you are groaning. But, sorry to say, millions of people around the world agree with me. The money don’t lie.

Everyone always talks about The Perks of Being a Wallflower as if it is some super-great book that I must read. So I did.

PERKS-cover

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

WTF?

I read the last page, closed it, and said, “That book sucked.”

I am sure many will disagree with me. Maybe part of it was that it was from the viewpoint of a teenage boy, rather than a girl. But I had trouble getting past the writing style. It was written as a series of letters to an unknown friend. Sooo many things wrong with this. The letter-writing thing just felt hoaky and unnecessary. I felt as though the author was writing badly on purpose so that I would truly believe that Charlie wrote the letters himself. Except that I just found it distracting. And the so-called friend? It isn’t even anyone that he knows. And, at the end of the book, you STILL do not ever find out who he sends the letters to.

I did like that although it was recently made into a movie (I have not seen it), the book was actually published back in 1999, and actually takes place in 1991-1992 when Charlie was a freshmen in high school. I was a freshmen then, or close to it. That means the author must be my age. But Charlie did not listen to any of the same music or see any of the same movies of that time that would have helped me relate to his character.

I kept wondering if this kid was supposed to be Autistic? Then I wondered if he just was. There was even a bad child molestation and physical abuse subplot. I guess maybe that was supposed to be the plot? Or explain why the kid was weird? If it was supposed to, I missed it.

The best part of the book was when they stood in the back of a pick-up truck while driving through a tunnel. Incidentally, that was the best part of the movie trailer as well.

I never did figure out what the perks of being a wall flower were supposed to be. I could probably be considered “a wallflower”. There are no perks.

I bought this book specifically to study what other YA writers are writing about and how they are doing it. I thought I might be able to use this book to help me think of the heroine in my first book differently. But I just came out of it thinking, “If this book became a hit, maybe mine isn’t as bad as I think it is. Maybe it could be a hit too.”

Get To Know Dinky Bossetti

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I have always had a problem when someone (or an Internet quiz) asks me what my favorite movie is.

1. Movies are not my medium of choice. Television is.

2. Several come to mind, but none seem good enough to be called my all-time favorite.

But when I pulled Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael off my overflowing DVD shelf today, I knew that I might have a winner. I have watched this movie numerous times over the years.

Photo: Paramount Pictures

Photo: Paramount Pictures

Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael is a movie starring Winona Ryder. Now, you might think that an 80’s movie starring Winona Ryder was of course a huge hit. But it wasn’t. You probably have never even heard of it. It was more offbeat than her usual offbeat.

In the movie they talk about how bad her hair is.  But I would look at this pic and wish mine looked that good. Photo: TV Guide, April 13, 1991

In the movie they talk about how bad her hair is. But I would look at this pic and wish mine looked that good.
Photo: TV Guide, April 13, 1991

I think the biggest reason it was not a hit was that it was a very 80’s movie…that came out in 1990. By then, the world was moving on from big hair and poofy clothes. It actually works in the movie, because it takes place in tiny Clyde, Ohio. You are supposed to get the impression that they are rural and behind the times. But that didn’t come across in the movie previews.

The main young guy in the movie that has a crush on Winona’s character, and she on him, isn’t exactly heartthrob material. Instead of a Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles, Gerald is more of a wannabe Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. We see how much he cares for Dinky by how he stalks her.

Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael also suffers because while it stars Ryder, much of the action and story of the film focuses on the adults around her in her life. Her adopted parents struggle with Ryder’s antisocial behavior. Ryder herself clings on to her guidance counselor and the local landscaper as mother and father role models, respectively. (Whoa. I never quite realized that until I just now typed it.) We also become involved in the life of the former best friend who is returning to town, which leads us to…

The fact that while the movie is called Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael, and Winona Ryder is the lead, she does not, in fact, play Roxy Carmichael. Ryder plays Dinky Bossetti. The audience never even SEES Roxy Carmichael’s face, and SPOILER ALERT, Roxy never, in fact, returns home.

So, it is a teen movie featuring adults. Or an adult movie with teens, I’m not sure. It is a movie behind its time in fashion and moral. But a bit ahead of its time, in that it does contain a big gay reveal for two of its characters. And a disappointing departure for a Winona Ryder film, in that she does not in fact lose her virginity in this one 😦

I believe I always deeply connected with this film not because of the large amount of carpet samples, but because it shows that no matter what your family looks like, as a teenager, you just don’t fit. Anywhere. EVER!

I watched this movie the morning of my high school graduation on HBO. It perfectly echoed everything I felt about my school career that would be officially ending in a few hours. From the scene where Dinky tries to make herself more attractive, only to end up on the school bus floor, to finding that you can’t make the world fit what you want it to be, you have to find a way to fit into your world (wow, deep).

The bus floor grime is highly realistic. So are the cafeteria horrors that she endures. The costumer dresses her in dog tags, hoodies, and boots to illustrate her anti-social tendencies.

Wait…that is what I wore in high school. Hmmm. Was I too cool to care what I looked like? Ahead of my time? Or just horribly dorky? These are rhetorical questions.

There was something fitting about her sitting on the lawn in the pink floofy dress, eating ice cream with Gerald and his new braces at the end that made me know everything would still be hard, but it would be OK.

Many other great things about this movie that I would rather list than try to fit into paragraph form:

My favorite quote from the movie:

“It’s good to want things.”

Dinky says it to Gerald, and he later turns around and uses it on her. It is applicable to tons of real-life situations.

Gosh, and I forgot to mention Melissa Etheridge’s great version of the central song in the movie “In Roxy’s Eyes (I Will Never Be The Same)”. We find out that Roxy Carmichael is only famous because a singer made her the object of a hit song. But, as an audience, we believe it, because Etheridge wrote and belts out a REALLY great song.

Or the other fine quote: “I’m gonna laugh at you someday Gerald Howells.” I want to say that to many of my former classmates.

Or the work of the always excellent Jeff Daniels, proud Michigan native, resident (30 miles to my north in the land of Jiffy Mixes), and friend of Adrian College. Daniels always plays such likeable characters, and he is good-looking. My best friend and I were going to stalk him one night, but she was driving and she chickened out. (I would not have.)

The school counselor: That’s a funny analogy.
Dinky: I’m here to amuse.

AND ALMOND ROCAS! Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael really plays as a giant Almond Roca commercial. I had never heard of this candy until I saw this movie. And then it would be another 20 years before I would actually see them in stores and try them. Soooo yummy, by the way.

“Dave, don’t be a cliché.” In the movie, this is told to a pig trying to steal another animal’s food. I tell it to my dog when she tries to pee on fire hydrants.

The movie also featured a great supporting cast of Dinah Manoff, Stephen Tobolowsky, Robin Thomas, and Micole Mercurio.

I feel like I am the only person out there who ever saw and/or loved this movie. Although that cannot be true, because it was released in DVD. So, if you are out there, please give me a shoutout.

BONUS MOM RANT: Oh, and FYI, the morning of my high school graduation my mom wanted to clean the bathroom after her shower, but before mine, so that when my gramma came, it would be clean. Except my gramma came over once a month or so, she had seen our bathroom dirty before. And my mom almost made me late for my own graduation because she just had to clean the bathroom.

 

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