Written by Stephen Chobosky, this coming of age story was published in 1996 but has recently seen another surge in popularity when it was converted into a film in 2012.
I know the idea of a coming of age novel makes you all groan inwardly because we’ve had it up to here with young adult literature. In my experience there are two kinds of YA novels; the ones where the author doesn’t dumb down enough to embody a teen protagonist, consequentially creating a narrator that is too precocious a la the annoying brats from “The fault in our stars” (I hated that book) or where he dumbs down too much and the lead comes off as mentally deficient.
Perks is a happy middle-ground. It’s a very easy read which tactfully handles heavy adult themes like abusive relationships, sexuality, suicide & death, emotional trauma and how young people come to terms with it. The author has avoided being heavy-handed or preachy. Something has to be said for the resilience of young people, which the author has showcased quite wonderfully.
Charlie is an adorable ‘wallflower’, he’s shy and doesn’t have a lot of friends and we instantly feel protective of him. The world is a dark, crazy place and my maternal instinct made me want to shelter Charlie from the evil elements. But this is what growing up is all about, we send our kids off into the world to take the good with the bad and hopefully mature into well-rounded individuals, but I digress.
Sometimes it does feel like the book is trying to do too much, some huge revelation is mentioned in an off-hand kind of way and that annoys me because I would’ve liked that theme to be explored in detail.
A great theme in the book was how it encourages the protagonist, and through him all young readers, to read great literature. “Catcher in the Rye” is suggested to Charlie, one of my favorite books.
Two of the protagonists have excellent taste in music and introduce Charile to “The Smiths”, the patron saints of angsty, depressed teenagers everywhere. I love books with great music, and I think this is the first time I came across a YA novel where music was a pretty central theme. I’d give it 3.5 stars out of 5