Perks of Being a Wallflower, Redux

This is the third time I’ve picked up The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.  The first time, I didn’t make it far past Charlie’s definition of masturbation.  The second time, I finished it, but I still didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.  It was sad, but that was about all I got from it.

I kept the book because I keep all my books, but it wasn’t one I intended to read again.  I only picked it up again because I joined a book club.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a prime example of why rereading is valuable.  On a second read through, you remember enough key plot points to pick up other nuances.  For example, knowing Charlie’s realization about his Aunt Helen at the book’s climax colors his memories of her in such a way that you are forced to reconsider it more complexly, beyond good and add to the multiple layers.  It also makes it easier to see her effects on Charlie, how his inability to assert his own needs is rooted in that one trauma.

Besides foreknowledge of the story itself, you bring to a rereading everything you have learned since the first time.  While reading this time, I recognized signs that Charlie was depressed which led to both a deeper connection to his character and to the text.  It made me wonder if there was a previous draft of the book excluding the epilogue and ending in tragedy – a question I posed to my book club as well.

I enjoyed reading this book as part of my book club.  We discussed the value of anonymity in baring your soul and how the story would be different if it was set in the modern-day with current social media platforms.

Both rereading and book clubs can provide a different perspective for a reader.  And in reading, perspective is everything.  No two people read the same book and no person truly reads the same book twice.  Reading this book reminded me of that, and I enjoyed looking at it with a new perspective.

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