Perks of being a wallflower, that is. One being that, as a wallflower, you may more easily stumble upon a book that will change everything. A book that will make you feel like you’re not invisible. A book that will make you remember you matter. A book that will help you see that there’s something, somewhere out there for you, and that it’s worth the wait to find it. For me, that book was The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.
I first came across this book about ten years ago. I was fresh(ish) out of college, and I had a mind-bendingly awful crush on an older musician. I obsessed (read: borderline stalked) him for the better part of a year (longer? probably longer). I let him lead me on, and he let me drool over him from a booth at the back of the biker bar where he and his brother presided over open mic night. I got exactly one thing of worth out of this arrangement: he recommended Perks. I bought and read it immediately because he said to. But by page two, I was reading it because I wanted to. For me.
I read it in one sitting while my then two-year-old niece slept. I was living with her and my sister in their little trailer in the country. I know that we were all three miserable, but I remember being happy. I remember waking my niece in the middle of the night to show her a lunar eclipse and listening to her whisper “moon” in her half-sleep. I remember hearing in the thin blue morning air her tiny feet pat-pat-pattering across the trailer to snuggle me. She split every night between her mother and me, curling up against our chests, making sure the love she had to give was spread out evenly and thick. She made our home happy.
Since that night in the trailer, I’ve read Perks so many times I’ve lost count. The second time I started reading it was the moment I stopped crying after the first time I read it. I was twenty-two (twenty-three?), and a book about teenagers shouldn’t have affected me so much. Except it did. And it made me realize that when they are good, characters and stories affect you because they are beautiful and tragic and amazing and everything that you are. It doesn’t matter whether you relate on paper. (I also have seemingly nothing in common with Scout Finch and Janie Crawford, but no one questions when you’re affected by those books.)
Reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower—that first time, and every time since—solidified this idea I have that I am meant to write books for kids. Kids like Charlie, kids like me. Kids who need to know that their lives will not always look they way they do from the vantage point of their lonely seats in the high school cafeteria. Kids like my niece.
She’s twelve now. And though she might be a tad young for it yet, she will be getting a copy for Christmas. It will be inscribed, S — I’ve been lucky enough to have met more than a few Sams and Patricks in my life. You’re one of them. I love you.
I meant for this post to be about the movie, which was wonderful. I’ve seen it twice and am seriously considering going once more before it finishes its theater run. It is imperfect, but beautifully so, and the feeling of the book carries over better than in any other adaptation I have ever seen. Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller are brilliantly cast. See it.
But first, buy the book. Read the book. Read it again. Read it once more. Pass it around. Buy another copy. Repeat.