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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.”

A Cry For Help

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The other day my mom was telling (complaining) about things my son does while she babysits him. She said something to effect of that she was glad she didn’t have a boy, because they are more work than girls. I replied, “I am glad I didn’t have a girl. They have too much drama.” I was thinking of two young girls I know, who I love to death, but they are full of drama. My mother replied, “Oh, like when you took the knife out of the drawer in the kitchen while I was doing dishes and threatened to kill yourself?”

Um, no mother. Not like that at all.

FYI–that was a cry for help that you ignored for 20 years and still apparently don’t even understand in hindsight. She never mentioned the event at the time or anytime in the 20 years since, but this is like the second or third time she has brought it up in the past year. I guess it is her best example of me being a bad kid? Her only memory of me as a teenager?

As a teenager, I hid almost all my real feelings about everything from her, because I didn’t want to hear her negativity. I didn’t even know that was the proper word for it at that time. It was only the early 1990s. The book The Secret would not be published for like another 10 years. If I went so far as to put a knife to my skin in front of her, trust me, it was not for drama. I was dead serious.

If only everyone carried signs...

If only everyone carried signs…

I knew I was depressed my senior year in high school. I wrote school reports about suicide. I read Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. All my friends had boyfriends, but I didn’t. No boys even looked at me.  I couldn’t remember how to smile or laugh. I coped by writing bad, depressing poetry. I tried cutting, because my friend did it. But it wasn’t for me. I got no satisfaction from it. I found the song “Everybody Hurts” by REM too painful to listen to–it was too painful to think that others were hurting as much as I was. That there could be that much hurt in the world.

Back to the phone call with my mom. I tried to be brave and actually give her a glimmer of honesty.

ME:  “I wasn’t being dramatic. Did you ever think that I might need some kind of help?”
MOM: “No, you were just being dramatic.”
ME: “No, I wanted to kill myself.”
MOM: “Oh, everyone wants to kill themselves.”

How does one reply to that????

I told her I had to go and hung up on her. She then texted me like eight more times that day as if nothing had happened.

I’m sorry, but you just blew off my feelings from a major, horrible time in my life.

And she will say things like “Be glad you didn’t have my mother. I was a good mother.” How can one argue with that?

And today I have to go and see her and make copies for her. I have to continue to pretend to be the perfect daughter. I have to pretend not to notice that she doesn’t accept anything about me or my life, even though by most accounts I have it together pretty well. I have to pretend that I am not a writer, that I don’t have tattoos, that I don’t have a blog, that I don’t go to church.

It is EXHAUSTING! And within minutes of being in her presence, I usually blow up at her about something stupid. She is clueless as to why. Usually, I am too. But, most likely, it is from the pressure of trying to hide my true self from the ONE person in the world who should accept me no matter what. She thinks she accepted me because she let me dress as Punky Brewster when I was eight. No. At the time she would make comments like she should be ashamed to leave the house with me looking like that. She still says things like that about that time today. That is not accepting. God, good thing I didn’t turn out gay.

"...the ones who accept you for who you are."  So, then I have no biological family?  Nice.

“…the ones who accept you for who you are.” So, then I have no biological family? Nice.

It is no wonder I always felt all alone growing up. That I identified with orphans on TV sitcoms. That I still write stories about girls who feel like they have no one in the world, no matter how big the family I write for them is.

This exchange with my mom made me angry.  Angry for me now.  And sad, for teenage me.

The following started as a writing I did in college, a true reflection of my feelings at the time. I converted it into a piece of the novel I am working on. Please don’t steal it:

If Jane’s suffering showed more outwardly, maybe someone would have reached out to offer her help. But her suffering was mostly silent and invisible to anyone who didn’t already know what her regular personality should be. She wasn’t walking past people in the halls missing an arm, leaving a river of blood behind her. To anyone she passed, it would just look like she was having a bad day. As such, if no one person took interest in her, then no one would realize that one day strung together into two days, which then became a week, a month. Depression was invisible. It made Jane invisible as well.

For another depression writing, click here and read THE DRIVING RAIN at the end of the post:  https://imnotstalkingyou.com/2013/02/26/college-sucked/

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