Even for the most well-adjusted kids, high school can make a person want to set themselves on fire because that seems to be the same amount of pain (or less) as being in school. A building full of judgemental, god-complexed, sleep-deprived, angsty jerks, seems like hell for an socially inept, timid 15 year old boy who just started high school. But imagine being Charlie, whose only friend shot himself, was a victim of chronic abuse, and the only family member he ever truly loved died in a car crash, along with being a hormonal teenage boy in desperate need of stability and guidance. Stephen Chbosky takes the readers into the mind of Charlie in a different perspective of how he experienced high school, and how he changed as a person because of it, showing that high school definitely are the best and worst years of a teen’s life.
The entire story of Charlie is how he evolves from this innocent, naive and insecure adolescent, to his end character. To lessen the fear and anxiety of starting high school alone, Charlie starts writing letters to a stranger, someone he heard was nice but has never met in person. This gave him a sort of companion to begin high school without his best friend. This to me, showed a sign of immaturity, lack of confidence, and a fragile psyche. Here Charlie is, writing letters to a complete stranger because he has no one else to talk to. He can’t simply make new friends because of his low self esteem and socially awkward personality. This changes completely as when at the end of the school year, he can introduce himself without wanting to cry or bury himself so he wouldn't have to deal with social interaction. Charlie continuously learns new lessons throughout the story, ultimately tearing away his insecurities and gaining courage.
Charlie gets to school, and the first day he was bullied by seniors who dunked his head into a toilet bowl, almost drowning him. He basically had the stereotypical worst first day of high school that you see in movies. Although, he made a new friend… his english teacher. He sees that as pathetic which only seems to lessen his confidence. I perceived this to be a great thing. He was finally getting some guidance other than his parents, who were distant, and didn’t seem to understand Charlie or how intelligent he was. However, Charlie’s english teacher could see that clearly and came to him first knowing how introverted and afraid Charlie was, especially on the first day of school. This to me, was exactly what Charlie needed. He need guidance, and Mr. Anderson was giving him exactly that. Though Charlie didn’t know it yet, Mr. Anderson would help Charlie find himself and help him tremendously throughout the year.
Charlie is more than a little lost. His shy, introspective ways stem from various psychological issues which are revealed as the story progresses. However, when Charlie meets his soon to be best friends, Sam and Patrick, things change drastically. He has a lot of his firsts within a month- first kiss, first party (with boys AND girls), first girlfriend, while being exposed to many negative things- drugs, alcohol, etc. He learns the social norms and what is socially acceptable and what isn’t, since he had almost no experience, he had to figure that out on his own (with a little help from his friends). His new friends he made at a football game, weren’t popular but were outcasts themselves. I thought that was an important aspect of this book, the author didn’t make it cliche and have Charlie meet a really popular girl or guy that made him the coolest kid in school and then he lived happily after that. The focus was not on popularity, but rather the opposite. It was that he found his group that accepted him for who he was. All of his friends didn’t fit in with the crowd, which made the story more interesting and profound. They didn’t conform to societal standards and instead came together. Charlie’s friend group was one that was accepting of others, had no care in the world of what other people thought (which was an important thing for Charlie to learn) and weren’t worried about their social status because they knew it was meaningless and trivial. Charlie was taught to let loose every so often, and while becoming friends with Sam and Patrick, he changed as a person for the better but not so that he wasn’t himself. I loved how Charlie matured throughout the book and how he learned his lessons. Charlie was experiencing so many things that most 15 year olds don’t experience until much later or ever. But Charlie isn’t just any ordinary 15 year old boy. He’s different and this wasn’t a normal story. Reading the experiences of Charlie was painful at times but also captivating, I can't even fathom being in Charlie's shoes going through what he has in one year let alone his entire life.
This book is full of memorable quotes, and the way Chbosky wrote this book is incredible. Any quote you find will be full of life and character. One of my favorites that I put as a picture here was “And we could be heroes for a day,” this quote was used as a reference to a David Bowie song that was used in the movie as well. Samantha, Patrick and Charlie were all heroes to one another, learning so much from each other and when they’re living life free and without a care, that is when Charlie is truly happy with himself and life. He finally sees that all this judgement he fears, doesn’t matter. Another of my favorites is “One day, all these moments will be memories,” Patrick tells Charlie that he needs to live in the moment sometimes without worrying about the future, only then will Charlie ever experience happiness. The most famous is “And in the moment, I swear, we were infinite.” Which was the first time Charlie was able to forget about all of his worries and focus on him being happy. In this particular instance, Charlie was in the car with Sam and Patrick. They both pushed Charlie out of his little shell he comes with. Charlie (on a dare) stood up out of the car, and through the window, spreading his arms wide open, and feeling the cold breeze being lost in the moment. That was probably the craziest thing he had ever done until that time. This was him living his life out on the edge and going out of his comfort zone, which lead to Charlie becoming more confident in himself.
This book was full of plot twists that really turned my brain upside down, [spoiler alert!] Aunt Helen had molested Charlie as child leading to him having a breakdown at the realization of this, which landed him into a hospital. The author did such a good job of incorporating this into the story as the reader would really have to read inbetween the lines to understand the ending. How the ending was written was perfect, and I wouldn’t want to end it any other way. It was closure for Charlie, and though things didn’t end up perfectly like they do in the movies, if it were to end happily, I would be more upset. Although I want what is best for the characters and for all of them to end up happy, if that were to happen, it wouldn’t be as great of a story. The fact that this book is realistic is the beauty of the story.
I’d recommend this book to most teens, I could read this book again and again. In such a short book, there are countless life applicable lessons to be learned. I related to a lot of the characters, and the author made this story original by straying away from the norms and cliche. I fell in love with the characters and this book took me by surprise becoming arguably the best book I’ve ever read. If you were Charlie, how would you have reacted to any of the horrible things that happened to him? Would you have wanted the author to give him a happy ending, or would you change it in any other way? Do you think Charlie would have been better off with friends his own age, or with the seniors he was friends with in the story? Was it the guidance he needed from someone older or someone his own age to experience similar feelings and things together?