Author: Stephen Chbosky
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date: February 1999
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Charlie is a freshman. And while he’s not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years, yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But Charlie can’t stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what life looks like from the dance floor.
I picked up this book on recommendation from a lot of friends and in anticipation of the upcoming movie adaptation (my interest was piqued by the strong cast). While I enjoyed it, I think I’m past the point in my life when reading it would’ve made me feel infinite.
Perks is a set of letters from the main character Charlie to an unknown ‘friend’ (presumably us, the reader), about his freshman high school experience. The book starts on a fairly sombre note, with Charlie telling us about the suicide of his best friend Michael and the loss of his favourite Aunt Helen much earlier in his life. It goes on to describe the rest of a tumultuous year, focusing mainly on time with two new friends he makes early on, step-siblings Patrick and Sam. It tackles heavy themes, such as homosexuality, abuse, social awkwardness, drugs, teenage sexuality and much more.