August 6

Perks of Being A wallflower

The Perks of Being A Wallflower is about a teenage boy, Charlie, experiencing high school. Although Charlie experiences a lot of “typical” teenage experiences throughout the book, Charlie is not the typical teenager.  Throughout Stephen Chbosky’s Young Adult novel, Charlie shows signs of being on the autistic spectrum.  Specifically, he shows a lot of signs of having Asperger’s. Asperger’s according to Medical News Today is “a developmental disorder that impacts on the individual’s ability to communicate and socialize, among other things.”

According to myAsperger’schild.com, teenagers “may be uncomfortably blunt.”  We see this with Charlie, when, Within a week of meeting a high school senior, Sam, Charlie writes to his unknown friend: “I told Sam that I dreamt that she and I were naked on the sofa, and I started crying because I felt bad, and do you know what she said? She laughed (21 -2).”

To say he’s blunt is an understatement. To say he lacks finesse isn’t quite right either. He has the social understanding of a seven-year-old, blurting out anything that comes to mind, appropriate to mention or not.  This also matches up with what myAsperger’schild.com says:  teenagers with Asperger’s “may be immature for their age and be naive and too trusting, which can lead to teasing and bullying.”

Charlie also demonstrates a lack of control and understanding of his own emotions.  He cries at the drop of the hat for seemingly no reason.  One example of this is when he’s at a party with Patrick and Sam.

I was sitting on the floor of a basement of my first real party between Sam and Patrick, and I remembered that Sam introduced me as her friend to Bob. And I remembered that Patrick had done the same for Brad. And I started to cry. And nobody in that room looked at me weird for doing it. And then I really started to cry (38).

Again this is another Asperger’s trait.  As, according to Asperger Syndrome Behavior, “Individuals with Asperger syndrome have trouble recognizing their own emotions and especially expressing them in a proper way.”

Despite his social and emotional skills being that of a seven-year-old, Charlie proves to be quite intelligent. We see this whenever he mentions his Advance English Class.

My advanced English teacher asked me to call him “Bill” when we’re not in class, and he gave me another book to read. He says that I have a great skill at reading and understanding language, and he wanted me to write an essay about To Kill A Mockingbird.

I mentioned this to my mom, and she asked why Bill didn’t recommend that I just take a sophomore or junior English class. And I told her that Bill said that these were basically the same classes with more complicated books, and that it wouldn’t help me.  (9-10)

“Bill” continually gives Charlie books and essays to write outside of normal class assignments to challenge him, proving that Charlie may be too advanced for even the advance class when it comes to literature.  But this is not necessarily unusual in children with Asperger’s.

According to myAsperger’schild.com , autistic  “adolescents may be extremely smart in specific areas, such as writing, math, or some form of the arts.”

A lot of Charlie’s behaviors and “symptoms” can be very off-putting to the reader, especially the frequency of how much he cries.  But to discover there is a reason for these eccentricitieswould make these annoying quirks forgivable to most readers. However, Chbosky never reveals the reason behind these idiosyncrasies. He lets readers know Charlie was molested as a child. And boys who were molested are not likely, according to what I could find on boys who are molested, to behave the way Charlie does in The Perks of Being A Wallflower, leaving readers to wonder if Charlie has Asperger’s and was molested…or if something entirely different is going on with him.

In the movie, Charlie doesn’t have these oddities in his behavior. He doesn’t cry at a drop of a hat. He’s smart. He makes jokes. He isn’t blunt.  He has the awareness of a neurotypical person his age. The only real oddity in him is the one or two times he blacks out in the movie. And that fits better with Charlie having been molested, as he could have easily been in a fugue state at the time.

Chbosky had a great opportunity and did a great job setting up a story about a character who is on the Autistic spectrum but undiagnosed. Unfortunately, he fumbles it by not following through, or perhaps, simply deciding to go with the ‘shock value’ of a molestation.

Works Cited

“Asperger Syndrome Behavior.” Asperger Syndrome Behavior. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 July 2013.
Chbosky, Stephen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: Gallery, 1999. Print.

Hutten, Mark. “My Aspergers Child: Problems Experienced by Teens with Aspergers.” My Aspergers Child: Problems Experienced by Teens with Aspergers. Mark Hutten, n.d. Web. 20 July 2013.

Nordqvist, Christian. “What Is Asperger’s Syndrome?” Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, 09 Mar. 2012. Web. 20 July 2013.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Dir. STEPHEN CHBOSKY and JOHN MALKOVICH. Prod. LIANNE HALFON and Russell SMITH. Perf. Emma Watson,, Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller. Roadshow, 2013. DVD.

July 12

Perks of Being A Wallflower: A Review

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 year 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 mix 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 he can’t stay on the sidelines forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

I honestly don’t know what it is with this book. I’ve read it once before but it had so little impression on me that I remembered only the vaguest details about it. I get the feeling I’ll experience the same thing this time around once homework is finished on the subject. The book is well-written in a letter/journal format. And I’ve read books that are similar to it but this one…something seems to be missing in it for me, though I couldn’t tell you what.

The Negative
I found aspects of this book unrealistic. Charlie seems way too naive to be a fifteen-year-old, twelve would be more realistic for how he sometimes acts and what he doesn’t know.  For instance, he doesn’t know what the word masturbation is, at fifteen.  I may be willing to believe that he lived in a very protective household and had no siblings, but Charlie’s family life seems, relaxed and he has two older siblings, both of which have had sex.  Charlie even caught his sister in the act at one point in the book. Also, he seems completely shocked when he has a wet dream.

Charlie cries if he’s given an unfriendly look. I know I’m sensitive, but even at fifteen I knew how to hold off tears until I was out of the public eye, swallowing them down until I could cry in privacy.  In the book he cries over everything. And, even if found this a realistic aspect, I found it incredibly annoying. I didn’t find it appealing.

Their are a few other things, but those were the biggest ones.

The Positive
Despite the parts I listed above, I did believe that Charlie was surviving high school. He experiences things that are real teenagers experiment with, from drugs to sex to love. Chbosky doesn’t back away from those actions or the ensuing consequences. One character winds up pregnant and getting an abortion, relationships are broken and mended, though not always. He experiences life.

The journal/letter format presents Charlie with a realistic release on the pressures he endures in his life. I don’t believe this would have worked as well, however if the book weren’t set in the 1990s. Modern technology would have made the story completely different.

Overall
This book is in no way meant for me and I’m glad I haven’t purchased the book.  Aren’t libraries great? However, I can see how other people may enjoy this book.  My advice, get the book only if you’re interested in realistic fiction, with a slight psychological bent.  That part probably needed enhanced more for my enjoyment.  The theme to the book is discovering yourself, and surviving. No specific plot. More of a year-in-the-life of a teenager.

Have you read this book? What did you think?