Tuesday, January 8, 2013

the perks of being a wallflower

When I was in primary school (aged 7 to 12), I was a complete wallflower. Every year I had a new best friend - the person who sat next to me. Who would also be the only person who spoke to me the whole year. Occasionally I was noticed by one or two persons who would make attempts to speak to me. But it would make me jump and that would be the end of the conversation.

Then I went to secondary school. The first year I was a complete wallflower. Not only did I not speak to anyone, I barely moved from my seat. Not even to go to the toilet. I would go during the break. Not even to throw something into the waste bin. I would stash the rubbish in my bag. Yes, even the pencil shavings. If anyone tried to speak to me, it would make me jump. The second year I found a friend. Or rather, someone I thought was really cool invited me into her world. But that was the second year. The first year in secondary school I really had a horrible time. It's awful spending hours in school and not speak to anyone. I had a lot of thoughts in my head but no one to say them to. So let me tell you this. There are no perks of being a wallflower.

But you know there are perks of being parents of teenagers? You get to know what the cool books and songs are! Well, you have to be careful though and not let on you're all interested. How horrible to know your parents read the books you read and listen to your songs.

A few months ago, my girl had her birthday and she has reached the age where she pretty much knows what she likes and wants although these likes and wants change quite frequently. But one thing she kept on her Want list was this book - the perks of being a wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I didn't really pay attention to this request because I had already obtained a cool jacket for her so I was safe. Anyhoos, on her birthday she opened her presents and she did not get the book she wanted. Later, she discovered a copy of the book, I think either under her pillow or on her bed. I forget.

Anyway, it turned out her brother had gotten her two presents - one that she opened and a secret one - the book which he knew she really wanted because she kept going on and on about it. It made her very happy.

I was quite curious about how my son had gotten the book because where we live, the bookstores are unlikely to stock this book. So I asked my son where he had bought it and he revealed or should I say, came clean that he had one day, after school, without getting his lunch first, taken a train all the way to town and gone to Kinokuniya book store. Once there, he used the in store online system to locate the book, bought it, took the train all the way home and said not one word about his adventure to anyone.

Now this may seem pretty ordinary to most people but my son has never "gone shopping" on his own in town before. His life revolved around school and home. Shopping which is more a hubs' thing is considered a punishment for son. Also, for him to go to such extent for another human being is quite remarkable. I was very touched by his gesture and yet did not want to go overboard with my feelings as I did not want him to think it was okay to just go wherever he wanted without telling his parents.

So this book was now on my radar because two human beings I gave birth to cared so much about it. I decided to start by watching the movie. Interestingly the movie was screen written and directed by the author himself.

Here's the trailer.

Usually before I watch a movie, I like to find out as little as possible about it. I like the story to be told to me fresh without anyone else's reviews or opinions in my head. If you've never seen the movie and would like to see it one day, it's best you stop reading. 

The perks of being a wallflower is a coming-of-age movie. I learnt this term from wiki. It revolves around Charlie, the wallflower who we know something bad happened but we aren't told what. We get lots of hints through flashback. He is nervous about starting high school especially since he has no friends. School does turn out bad for Charlie with the typical bullying and social awkwardness and he finds himself alone. Then he strikes up a friendship with 2 seniors step siblings Sam and Patrick. Unfortunately, Sam and Patrick in letting Charlie into their lives in some ways contributed to Charlie experiencing with drugs. The drugs and Charlie's own crazy mixed up suppression almost ended badly. Eventually Charlie got better with the help of doctors and we are finally told what happened to Charlie that made him so screwed up.

Oh, I almost forgot. Charlie tells his thoughts through letters he writes to an unknown person. Apart from his two new friends, his English teacher is a big influence. He gives Charlie books to read and encourages him in his writing.

What excited me about this movie is it had this song "Come on Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners. I get very excited when I know the songs in movies. This song came out when I was 18 and we would play this song in class a lot because there was a girl in my class named Eileen. She was amused a couple of times but got really sick of the chorus which my classmates would sing.

Another song, "Heroes" by David Bowie is featured but this song I'm not familiar with. In the movie, the song is played twice. The first time, while driving through a tunnel, Sam stands up in the car or pickup I forget and opens her arms like in Titanic and she feels free and wild as the wind beats her face and her clothes swirls all around. The second time the song is played, it is Charlie who does the standing up because he has freed some demons. Okay, maybe he felt "infinite".

Another thing that got me excited in this movie is the first book the English teacher had the class read was To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee. I read this book many times when I was a teenager.

After I saw the movie, I asked my girl to lend me the book. This is something I like to do - watch a movie and then read the book just to see the differences. In this case, since the author of the book also wrote and directed the film, I thought it would be even more interesting. I usually prefer to watch the movie first followed by the book. I find that I'm less critical this way.

Oh, did I mention I've begun to notice the actor who played Patrick. His name is Ezra Miller and I first saw him in We Need To Talk About Kevin, a very disturbing movie also adapted from a book which I've borrowed but not yet read. (it looks like a difficult book to read - also told via letters) I think Ezra Miller  played Patrick to the T.

Surprisingly, I find that I like the book and the movie equally. It's almost like the movie is not based on the book even though it clearly is. What I mean to say is I could appreciate the movie as a movie. And the same for the book. This is quite rare for me as I would often nitpick and question why this or that was left out. The book explains a lot more about Charlie and how he came to be alone. The parts that were left out of the movie I believe were mainly to avoid getting a restrictive film rating.

I could not find the song "Come on Eileen" in the book even though I read carefully. But another book I've read before was mentioned a few times in the book but not in the movie. It's The Catcher In The Rye by JD Salinger. For me, this was my coming-of-age book mainly because I read it when I was at the right age. Of course when I read the book, I thought I was the only one who had discovered the book. It turned out the book is quite famous! And my coming-of-age movie was Breaking Away. I saw it with my BFF and you know how coming-of-age books and movies are. You emerge changed, filled with hopes and possibilities, and believing you're somebody. At least that's how it was for me. Once the movie was on TV and by then I was a mother with kids and I found I couldn't watch it at all. I guess you had to watch it at the right age and right decade.

The only criticism I have of the book is the writer for some reason chose to let Charlie be very vague when expressing his feelings about his fall into depression. He felt bad again. That was how Charlie would tell the recipient of his letters. Maybe Charlie himself could not articulate his feelings. I hope that was it. Otherwise, not a bad book and if you read it at the right age, it might be your coming-of-age book.



Sarah_L_N said...

That was so sweet of your son :) In spite of the going without your permission part! I think I will freak out slightly when I have to let my little boy go off to school and not know where he is every second of the day!
The book sounds really interesting, I've not heard of it before, I'm off to put it on my amazon list! :)
Also your 'warning' above the comments box made me giggle! :D

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