I really enjoyed this book!
Perks is a coming of age story that focuses on the tapestry of the coming of age experience rather than the introspective focus that is often found in such tales.
The story isn't just about Charlie and his first year of high school, it is about his friends going through their final year of high school, about his sister going through a personal struggle that will define her for the rest of her life, and about a single moment in time that will never come again.
But mostly, yes, the book is about a wallflower named Charlie.
Charlie is special... today we would probably put him on the autism spectrum (although more in the Asperger's Syndrome end) and there is something else as well.. something dark that lies just below the surface, something that leads Charlie to have panic attacks and to be unable to stop crying.
There are some beautiful moments in this book, moments that resonate past the pages of cliche high school troupes and predictable love triangles. Moments when Charlie's ability to see the truth of the situation because he is somewhat removed, because he is the wallflower are so expertly written by Chbosky that you want to break down and cry.
In the end, that is the greatest perk... and through Chbosky's use of the narrative structure of letters, we are able to capitalize on that perk as well.
By communicating with the reader through letters simply addressed to "Friend" we are both a part of the story and a spectator as well, unable to interact with the drama that is unfolding. We, the audience, become the quintessential wallflowers ourselves with all the perks that being so entails... perks like being able to see a bigger wider frame of the big picture.
And like Charlie we have the disadvantages of being an outsider... for even though Charlie is reaching out through his letters to "friend" the reader is powerless to stop the oncoming train of drama and disappointment In the same way, Charlie is powerless to stop the wheels of time from moving... he must face the reality that when one is a freshman and all one's friends are seniors, one is going to have to start all over again.
The book is surprisingly deep for being so short, surprisingly fresh for being a few years old, and surprisingly profound for being considered a "young adult" novel.
I highly recommend it!
... There's just this one thing....
(And really it has nothing to do with the writing, I'm guessing ti was a publishing decision, but there is an epilogue that is not only extremely long for an epilogue but is also vital to the story. It is more of the last chapter than the epilogue .. without it we would have been left at the climax instead of being allowed the falling action and conclusion.
But otherwise, this was an excellent read!