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Never ever try to review a book a full month after you have read it. Even if it is a book that you really liked. Time and its companion, memory, wait for no review - it's there in the lens of your eye, the corners of your mind, the story that you liked, and then like an artist swiftly erasing the colors of his canvas, it's gone. I haven't blogged much recently. I have barely read - I am struggling through three books right now at the same time, and I am getting stuck in even learning my beloved Chinese. Sometimes, you find that life and people intervene in ways and means that you struggle to control or even comprehend, and the resulting casualty are all the things that you love. It has left me thinking - I have always believed that we lead a life of our choice - yet, we chain our choices, and smother it with our expectations of a future dream. So right now, I think am I leading a life of my choice or have I abandoned these choices? I fear it's the latter...
These are kind of the thoughts that may come to you as well when you read Stephen Chbosky's marvelous The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Especially lines like these that resonate with what I have written above:
“So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we'll never know most of them. But even if we don't have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.”
Right now, the book is selling again after being made into a movie starring Emma Watson. I haven't seen the movie, but I read the book on Kindle. And a funny and heartwarming book it was too. Charlie is a unique voice. And the structure of the novel based as it is on Charlie writing letters to an anonymous friend may put some people off, but it doesn't detract from hearing the voice inside Charlie. In his freshman year at school, the novel begins with Charlie telling us of the suicide of his best friend, Michael. Original in thought, Charlie's voice is unfiltered, a beautiful compass on life as he knows it. We never really know if there is something 'wrong' with Charlie - throughout the novel only hints are dropped that indicate that he may be mentally unwell. But it doesn't matter. Befriending Sam and Patrick is the best thing that happens in young Charlie's life - I will remember for a long time that scene when they go driving in the tunnel:
"Anyway, Patrick started driving really fast, and just before we got to the tunnel, Sam stood up, and the wind turned her dress into ocean waves. When we hit the tunnel, all the sound got scooped up into a vacuum, and it was replaced by a song on the tape player. A beautiful song called "Landslide." When we got out of the tunnel, Sam screamed this really fun scream, and there it was. Downtown. Lights on buildings and everything that makes you wonder. Sam sat down and started laughing. Patrick started laughing. I started laughing. And in that moment, I swear we were infinite."That scene reminded me a bit of Kerouac's On The Road. And this quote especially: “the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” Charlie goes through all the teenage angst and all the experimentation - drugs, sex, booze. We learn that he was closest to his Aunt Helen, who died in an accident. And Charlie realizes that he loves Sam, that he cherishes his friendships, and understands his family as well. I seem to be filling up this review with quotes, but I have to, because really that is just how beautiful a book this is. And somehow, everything that he says makes sense. Really. Doesn't it?
“It's great that you can listen and be a shoulder to someone, but what about when someone doesn't need a shoulder? What if they need the arms or something like that? You can't just sit there and put everybody's lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can't. You have to do things.”
And that's how Charlie does - he doesn't just pick random gifts. He makes gifts. Thoughtful ones. I guess at the end of the book somehow, you wish that Charlie was your friend as well. He really would have been. That's also kind of how you feel when you keep aside the book - like you have just lost a good friend. I end this review with a quote that I think I ought to wear and walk around with. It's what I do all the time - but somehow that seems weird in this world where we mask everything and live a life of pretense. This is just what gets me into trouble, and like Charlie, I just don't know how to be otherwise...
If somebody likes me, I want them to like the real me, not what they think I am. And I don't want them to carry it around inside. I want them to show me, so I can feel it too. I want them to be able to do whatever they want around me. And if they do something I don't like, I'll tell them.
Verdict : Do you need one? Really. Just read it, please.