If I have one regret about my reading life it’s that I didn’t read this book in 2000.
I was a teenager. I just moved to the US all by myself and was about to attend American High School for a year. My life was a mess and I wanted to start anew. Nothing prepared for what I was about to experience and I did all the wrong things and went the wrong way about the whole thing. If I had only read this book back then maybe I’d gotten my priorities right.
Also it is written in such a simple language that my teenage self wouldn’t struggle with it. It would give me the courage to explore more. As it was, I started reading in English with some big complicated book that made me dizzy and I eventually abandoned it.
It was 2000! This book was huge then, I believe. I went to a bookshop and asked someone there to recommend me a book. I explained I came to the US, just started American High School, that I felt very lonely and that books made me happy. Why the idiot working there didn’t just give me ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’, I will never know but I hope he got sacked eventually. Mind you, I wasn’t somewhere along the Bible belt, where he might've been worried of causing scandal by giving me this book. It was New Hampshire! Live free or die!
Of course, reading it now, in 2012, when I’m a seemingly well-adjusted adult living in London and not afraid of tackling even the most complex books in English, was not exactly a mind-blowing experience. I still felt the power and allure it would've had for me if I read it at a right time but could also see it for what it was – bit of a naïve coming of age story written in a language that was too simple if it was supposed to belong to Charlie - the English class prodigy. There was a lot of: “I was sad. I cried. I was happy. I cried. And then I just cried for no reason.”
But you know what, there is one lesson in it that you should remember. Friends are important. And the friends you make when you’re young are usually the friends you keep for life. So choose wise.
And also here is a note for half of the people on the internets: Charlie was NOT autistic. I know people tend to call ‘autistic’ anything they consider weird but Charlie was the opposite of autistic. Autism is not characterized by higher than normal appreciation of literature or being oversensitive to people’s feelings and super-perceptive when it comes to emotions. People, autism is more or less the opposite of that. If you need to give Charlie a label, make it PTSD and stop embarrassing yourselves.