In the midst of my journey through The Count of Monte Cristo, I’ve been reading a book given to me and enthusiastically recommended by a friend, The Boy Detective: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.
This is a book I’ve heard about for a long time, and it’s been recommended to me by a few people, so I gave it a try. It took me a long time to get through, but not due to any fault of the book. I only had the time for a few pages a day. Actually, I think it worked that way. It’s an epistolary novel (told through letters), and I read at least one full letter per day.
The main character, Charlie, is on the fringes of life and society in his high school, overshadowed by his football star brother (now at Penn State and about to go pro) and his popular, valedictorian sister. Charlie struggles throughout the novel to find himself and his place in the world.
This is a coming of age (bildungsroman for all you English nerds) novel, similar in theme to The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, A Separate Peace by John Knowles, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga, or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. It’s unique to most of these novels as it really demonstrates a more common experience than the aforementioned novels. In each of those you have some fantastical elements or hyperbolic story lines; here, Charlie really is struggling with doing things, with asserting himself.
He loves everyone, just really trying to make sure he doesn’t hurt anyone that he loses himself. He desperately loves a girl throughout the book, but doesn’t want to risk losing her, so he doesn’t act. It doesn’t make him a bad guy, but it does nothing for him.
Charlie sees everything. He witnesses people at their best and worst, keeps secrets, begins to make friends, and discovers a love for literature. I can’t call him a protagonist, though he is a main character. I tend to think of the protagonist as the one who drives the story. He doesn’t do so–he witnesses others move the story forward.
Really, this is one of those books that’s got some slightly mature elements–I’d recommend this to older teens–but it’s one that embodies what many teens go through.