Daiqian introduced this book to me some time ago and after reading the synopsis, I just knew that I had to get it. So I did and have since read it thrice. The thing is, I seldom buy books and would usually get them free from the library. This alone probably already shows that Perks meant something more to me than just any other book.
Since the synopsis was what drew me to this book in the first place, I felt obligated to copy it here:
‘I walk around the school hallways and look at the people. I look at the teachers and wonder why they’re here. Not in a mean way. In a curious way. It’s like looking at all the students and wondering who’s had their heart broken that day… or wondering who did the heart breaking and wondering why.’
I would love to include the whole synopsis, but it would only make this post even longer. Besides, this was really the only part which captured my attention. So if you would like to, you could read the remaining abstract here.
Perks was written as a series of letters from Charlie to an anonymous recipient, who Charlie refers to as ‘the friend who listen and understand and didn’t try to sleep with people’. I would like to think of this ‘friend’ as the reader of the novel, which in this case, is me.
“I will call people by different names or generic names because I don’t want you to find me.”
‘Charlie’ is an alias in this book. Same goes for all the rest of the characters. This bothered me quite a lot as I can’t stop trying to think of the reasons he chose those generic names, or if those names had signified anything special to him. As much as Charlie didn’t want me to find out who he is, I can’t help but feel that he is an author surrogate. But I guess I’m only partially correct because I found this:
“In terms of it relating to my adolescence, I’ve always said that the book is very personal to me, but it isn’t necessarily autobiographical – not in the literal sense of the word anyway. I do relate to Charlie. But my life in high school was in many ways different.” – Stephen Chbosky (LA Youth, 2001)
Moving on, this book covers a wide range of themes – books, music, family, friends, sex, drugs, etc. It does not really have a distinctive story line. It’s just like a diary or something, which makes it easy to read. I guess it’s safe to assume that Charlie is twice my age because the first letter was dated 1991 and he was 15 years old then. Due to this huge age gap and the fact that I’m an Asian, it’s sometimes a teeny bit difficult for me to relate to him. E.g. I have no idea what The Rocky Horror Picture Show is about and in my country, kids don’t just decide that they want to ‘experiment with drugs’. LOL. However, I’m really happy that mixed tapes play a big role in this story. I like cassette tapes, they stir up memories and waves of nostalgia. Compare them to ripping CDs and Internet downloads today – ugh. Cassettes are definitely so much better (at least to me).
Incidentally, Charlie is an introvert (me too!) so it makes connecting a little easier. I like the way he would think big things out of very small observations and I’m quite sure many other readers enjoyed his insightful thoughts too. I have decided not to share my lonnngggggggg list of views about his thoughts (although I would love to) lest I bore everyone to death. I’m just really happy that Charlie had understanding parents, good friends like Sam & Patrick and a good teacher like Bill. Somehow, I also felt that Charlie ‘participated’ in even more stuff than I did. Time to work harder on my social skills, hmm.
There was this plot twist at the end about Aunt Helen, which upset me a lot. Charlie loved her throughout the book, and so did I. What happened was really shocking. I guess some people really have it a lot worse. In fact they do, because what happened to Sam, Aunt Helen, Aunt Rebecca and Charlie… it’s just sad.
It’s quite scary to think that you’ve went through things that you can’t remember simply because they were bad things. Things so bad that your brain, in order to protect yourself, deleted whatever it is from your memory. It’s a self-protection mechanism, yes. However, I think I would still want to remember things even if they were really bad because after all, it was once part of my life and I don’t think I would want to forget any part of my life. Of course, this is me before experiencing any trauma and terrifying event. I wonder if I would still feel this way if something terrible ever happens to me. I hope I never have to find out the answer.
This is the trailer for the movie:
“And in that moment, I swear we were infinite”
Since most parts of the book were Charlie’s ‘raw’ thoughts, I’m really curious as to how the movie will be like.