By Soumya Bisht, Batch of 2019
There are a very few times when a book leaves you with much more than a story to remember and characters to recall and scenes to relish. Lucky for me, I decided to give the Perks of being a wallflower a try. It may seem weird but for me, an object loses its charm once it is in spotlight and stripped bare of all that made it special. The Perks trod on a very fine line in this context. I didn’t expect much- just your regular young adult drama with a semi-engaging sob story and a bittersweet end.
As I sit listening to the playlist that Charlie, the protagonist of the novel created, I know I couldn’t have been more wrong. Sure, the story had the regulars- an unconventional, damaged protagonist in love with a charming yet equally-damaged woman and together they embark on a journey that helps them come to terms with their demons. However, there is something that sets this book eons apart from its contemporaries. As the book chronicles the lives of few close friends brought together by the most coincidental of circumstances, we accept them for who they are. Perhaps, Stephen Chbosky finally cracked the code behind how to not over-dramatize or glamourize teen angst and the problems that come with figuring your identity and ideals. So, when we are introduced to a young confident woman who is not comfortable with the apparent perfect body she possesses, we believe Chbosky. We sympathise with her like we do with Patrick when he sets out to find himself a way out from the mess he and his gay partner find themselves in. We accept when Charlie’s sister makes the choices she does- however terrible they might seem. And not once do we lose faith in Charlie even as he spirals into a void of smoking and drugs and we appreciate Sam and her decision to not date Charlie.
Chbosky finds the right balance between the world of possibilities and reality. And as he trudges our characters on the tightrope, we see them tackle issues that are so real that for once, we can put ourselves in their shoes and funnily enough, we realise that Chbosky has nailed the thought process of a teenager stuck in those dilemmas. Their stories aren’t anything spectacular. But as Charlie narrates them to an unknown receiver, we are brought face to face with the real charm that puts this book in a different league. Its beauty lies in the decisions its characters take and the choices they make. It lies in the way they tackle the aftermath of their decisions and carve their lives into something better with each mistake and every achievement.
And what better scene to relate to and relish than that that has a bunch of damaged teenagers- some more than the others- with a dark story hidden somewhere deep within their hearts, as they build newer memories and savour the brighter moments from the past and share what unites them best- good music.
For the sake of all the decisions we made that made us feel bigger than what we were, and those that broke us down with a wave of regrets that washes over us every now and then- do go ahead and grab yourself a copy. It may be seventeen years too late, but trust me, kids in their teen years haven’t changed except maybe now we don’t have landlines with cords. A beautiful book that affected me more than I’d like to admit, Perks of Being a Wallflower will forever be on my must-read lists and I shall keep reading it whenever I need to remind myself how magnificent even a wallflower like Charlie can be.
Aforementioned ‘good music’:
- Asleep by The Smiths
- Vapour Trail by Ride
- Scarborough Fair by Simon & Garfunkel
- A Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum
- Time of No Reply by Nick Drake
- Dear Prudence by the Beatles
- Gypsy by Suzanne Vega
- Nights in White Satin by the Moody Blues
- Daydream by Smashing Pumpkins
- Dusk by Genesis
- MLK by U2
- Blackbird by the Beatles
- Landslide by Fleetwood Mac
- Asleep by the Smiths (not an error)