“He’s a wallflower. You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand”

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

Again I have joined the party too late. A billion years after the book came out I have finally read The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.

First, I feel I should add it is a tad ironic that I decided to read a book about education and graduation when my education officially came to an end this week. Boo.

Anyway, ever since I was little I have always loved books about schools from Malory Towers to The Naughtiest Girl in the School – yep I am weird and clearly had a love for Enid Blyton. And it seems as though my preferences have not changed as I ADORED this book.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows the main character Charlie and his journey through the cruel world of adolescence and peer pressure which is told via letters in a first person account. He is THAT ostracised kid that we all knew but no-one really spoke to at school. He has to encounter unrequited love, being the unpopular kid at school and holding a genius status when it comes to writing English essays.

Chbosky has left aspects of the book ambiguous. It is clear that Charlie is suffering from a mental health issue but we never learn what it is, but there are hints that his Auntie’s death maybe connected to his state of mind.  We also never discover who the letters are written to. At first I thought it may have been directed to the reader but I am now a little unsure.

The novel was the epitome of a postmodern text and dare I say it would not have been out of place on my English degree. It would have been a welcome break to read this instead of some of the drudgery I was made to read, yep The Unbearable Lightness of Being I am looking at you.

I love books where not much happens but a lot really does. What I mean is I am not a fan of books where the whole text compromises only these three points; a lead up to a problem, the catastrophe being revealed and then the rest of the time spent trying to solve the issue.

I really enjoyed this book because I felt that Chomsky really captured the confusion and neediness of an adolescent. He chose not to omit mundane things from Charlie’s letters which I felt gave the book and the characters more humanised qualities consequently making it more real. He chose to ignore the fake glamour society sprinkles on everything and gave us substantial realism and grit.

Unusually there was not one character I disliked as Chomsky had created individuals that anyone anywhere would have known at school, from the alterative crew to the jocks and geeks. He gave humour, sadness and hope to all of his characters. The last attribute is what I loved most about the book, the ending was not one of happiness necessarily but of hope.

I could not recommend this book highly enough! It was really comforting  and it is the type of book I would read again and again. It is an easy read and could be read in an afternoon. It is a novel which does not date or lose relevance over the years. I have yet to see the film and I am very intrigued to see if it does it justice.

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Welcome to Paradise?

 

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The Beach – Alex Garland

A bit of a deep post today but do not be put off!

The Beach has been on my ‘to read list’ since last summer. Some friends at work recommended the book and said it was better than the film. I love the film so I was intrigued to see whether the book could beat it.

For those of you who have not seen or read the book I will explain the essence of the plot. Richard is your typical traveller – inquisitive, confident and looking to escape from a capitalist society. He is back packing in Thailand when he meets a French couple in a hostel. The story quickly creates a problem when the mysterious Mr Duck is found dead in the hostel but before he dies he gives Richard a map of a beach – utopia.

The trio go in search of the beach but not before Richard reproduces the map for others which has dramatic consequences. The journey to the secret island requires them to put their lives in danger as they swim through caves and face death at the hands of the owners of a cannabis plantation. However they are rewarded for their troubles once they reach their destination. They find a close knit community where everyone has a role in trying to make it successful. But it does not stay that way for long. Death, betrayal and power soon become prevalent and threaten to destroy the utopia.

As soon as I began reading the book I knew the film was not a faithful reproduction of the novel as Richard is English in the novel and American in the dramatization.  Hello Leo! And there is a lot more focus on Mr Duck and his relationship with Richard. It was hard to stop comparing the film and the book as I have watched Danny Boyle’s production so many times.

As you would expect with a book the characters’ emotions are explored in a lot more depth than the film. In contrast the dramatization exaggerates certain aspects such as the chemistry between Richard and Etienne and the ending also differs. If you have not read the book I will not spoil anything for you.

Essentially both show that nothing is perfect; there is no such thing as utopia. And as depressing as that sounds it is a refreshing statement to hear as in today’s society where everything is sugar coated, it is almost comforting to read that life is not really like that.

The book is quite heavy but it is definitely worth a read and makes you want to be abroad. I would definitely agree that the book is better than the film, soz Leo. A word of advice…perhaps it is worthwhile to read it in the summer and not curled up in about ten blankets.