I was interested in reading this book after watching the movie. I am a big fan of Emma Watson and I like to watch whatever she is in. I really enjoyed watching the movie and I heard good things about this book. The novel is told through a series of letters to the reader. It is about a high school freshman named Charlie, who is a sensitive and highly intelligent boy. He has a depressive nature after blaming himself for the death of his aunty when he was seven. Charlie is also very sad over the recent suicide of his only friend Michael. He makes friends with two seniors named Sam and Patrick who are step brother and sister. They encourage him to participate more in life and Charlie experiences new music, drugs, romance and alcohol.
Charlie has many good times with his friends but remains depressed. He desperately wants to stop feeling sad and cries a good deal in the novel. His family and friends are supportive of him but do not know the extent of his depression. Charlie also has a mentor in his English teacher Bill who gives him books to read. The books are classics like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Fountainhead. Most of the books are to give Charlie some insight in life, as his teacher recognizes that Charlie is having a hard time.
Charlie’s also supports his friends and family through their problems. Sam has a college aged boyfriend who is not always there for her; Patrick has a secret relationship with a footballer and Charlie’s sister Candace is hit by her boyfriend. He mostly comforts them by listening and following their lead. Sam thinks he ought to be more active in his support and to be more honest as his passive nature is not always good for anyone.
It is has been a while since I had a new favourite book. I have resolved to give away any book that is not a favourite of mine so this is the first book of this year that I will keep. I felt nostalgic reading this book and thought about my own high school experiences. Charlie’s friendships reminded me of the deep bonds formed in high school and how each group can have traditions and inside jokes. The character seems so authentic and it is easy to be reminded of the people that I knew in high school.
There is a lot of drunkenness and drug use in the book that may be off putting for some readers. Charlie experiments with drug taking and drinking from the influence of his friends. Fortunately, they all look after each other so the effects of taking such things never has too much of an adverse effect from them. Drinking and drugs are not glorified in the novel but it is treated with casualness. The characters experiment mostly at parties and remain sober and clean in their everyday life. The drugs particularly have a bad effect on Charlie and he stops taking them.
Charlie’s depression is handled with sensitivity in the novel. I could relate to his feelings of hopelessness as it reminded me of the saddest moments in my life. I think that this book would be a good read for people going through a hard time to see Charlie try to get better. He eventually has a nervous breakdown but even that is a good thing. Charlie gets a psychiatrist who helps him to heal from the pain of his past.
This book isn’t really a downer despite the content. It’s more of a coming of age story and a nostalgia trip for people who have finished high school. If books aren’t your thing, the movie is pretty good too. There are a few little differences of course but it perfectly captures the spirit of the novel.