The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky) – Book Review

I started reading this book this morning. I am reviewing it in the afternoon. If this isn’t a testament to exactly how “captivating” it is as a read, I don’t know what is.

It’s 1991. Charlie is a fifteen year old boy about to start his freshman year of high school. And he’s terrified. Especially after one of his friends commits suicide a few months earlier. The only way he manages to cope with the looming idea of what awaits him is to write letters to a “friend” who doesn’t really know him, with no return address and no way to trace back the letters.

The letters he sends are, more or less, diary-like entries: elements from his every day life that he feels are important to share, events that he feels are shaping his life, changing him and making him grow up. During his freshman year, he meets Sam and Patrick, two seniors, who accept him in and show him the life that they’ve been living. Be it driving in Sam’s truck through a tunnel with her standing in the back feeling in the fresh air to experimenting with LSD and pot at parties to opening up to sexual experiences.

Sam and Patrick, and later on their other friends, open Charlie’s eyes to a wide range of opportunities in life that he’s unfamiliar with. They call him a wallflower: a person who listens, observes, doesn’t talk about things and understands them. They make him feel included. They make him accepted. His advanced English teacher, Bill, realizing Charlie’s brilliance, starts giving him extra readings to do, shaping up this young man’s life. And in doing so, the new additions to Charlie’s life help him cope with the dark past that he is oblivious to and which lurks under his skin, ready to surface at any moment.

Published in 1999, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a much deeper book than it seems to be. It is easy to categorize it as a simply a teenage trashy book simply because of its general mood. But when you know that this book is one of the most challenged by parents in the United States, you are forced to reconsider. Why do parents feel The Perks of Being a Wallflower is “dangerous” to their children? Because the themes the book deals with are gut-wrenchingly real and they are dealt with in such a brilliantly realistic manner. Drugs, pregnancy, abuse, sexuality – all of these topics that matter to teenagers are approached in the book in a way that isn’t complex. The writing is very simplistic, approachable and easily comprehensible. At the same time, the book runs deeper than the easy language it boasts.

It is a coming of age book, like the story of its protagonists, that is candid. Charlie shares his stories with remarkable honesty, pulling you into whatever emotional state he conveys in his letters. When he’s happy, you can’t but smile. And when he goes into dark phases of depression, you can’t but empathize. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a collection of Charlie’s most important moments and his realization of the need to live those moments as much as you can, be it a shortcoming or a victory.

As Charlie discovers that he likes girls that are unconventionally beautiful to books that require him to be a filter not a sponge to the realization that truly loving someone is about wanting to see not hurt at all, even if it means being apart, you see him grow on the pages in front of you and transform from an insecure kid to a growing young adult. And as he comes to the realization that in order to reach his full potential in life he needs to stop being a wallflower, you can’t but share his infamous sentence and say it out loud: “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”

Teenagers should read more of this and less of Justin Bieber related things.


Fifty Shades Trilogy: Fifty Shades Darker – Book Review (EL James)

After the torture read that was Fifty Shades of Grey (my review), I braced myself for the second book. A sane person would have stopped reading but being the masochist that I am, I wanted to know if these books, which are still selling like hotcakes, actually had anything more to them than the sex scenes upon sex scenes which filled their pages, ultimately becoming useless and skippable.

The second book in the Fifty Shades trilogy, titled Fifty Shades Darker, doesn’t stray away much from its predecessor. But as the title suggests, it runs deeper into what the first book lacked: a tangible story.

Fifty Shades Darker picks up where Grey left off: Ana had left Christian after he beat her in one of his sexual escapades. She then starts to sink in to despair, as is typical for similar characters in other books (Yes, Twilight comes to mind). Luckily enough, that doesn’t last a whole book. A few pages later Ana encounters Christian and ends up in his arms again without much struggle. This time, however, their relationship won’t be the same. New boundaries need to be set and new rules need to be instilled. As the story progresses, Ana starts to become fearful about the prospect of Christian leaving her for someone else when he gets bored of her and the “vanilla” relationship they have. On the other hand, Christian finds in Ana a reason for living (the billions upon billions that he has are not enough) and is equally fearful about her leaving him.

As their “relationship” grows, one of Christian’s ex-subs who had never lost her fixation on him returns with a vengeance while Ana faces trouble at the publishing house she’s working at with her overly flirtatious boss.

That’s book two in a nutshell.

Is it better than book one? Only slightly. Fifty Shades Darker delves deeper and goes darker into what made Christian the sadist BDSM-loving person that he is but those insights into the character’s personality are so diluted by the overly abundant sex scenes that they eventually become irrelevant.

Ana is still as useless a character as she was in book one. Even the “improvement” to her relationship with Christian don’t rub off on her – no pun intended – to give her some spine. In fact, she even melts further into the man she’s in love with, becoming more and more useless with each passing page. She “flushes” at every turn of the page. Her infamous “oh my” is blurted out countless times. Her Macbook Pro is still called the “mean machine.” Everything about her is still the same – except much staler and when her being as stale as it can get in Fifty Shades of Grey, that’s saying something.

If you’re the person reading Fifty Shades for the sex scenes (I’m not judging), you won’t be disappointed. As I said, Fifty Shades Darker doesn’t run short on them. Among the places that get a taste of Ana and Christian’s undying libido there’s a pool table, an elevator, their corresponding apartments and a boat’s deck, just to name a few.

Fifty Shades Darker manages to go a few shades deeper than its predecessor but that’s nowhere near enough to turn this erotic “thing” a novel worth reading. The characters still use the same cues for sex. Whatever plot that takes place is as predictable as it can get and that’s without even going into the overly repetitive writing style which gets even worse on this.

Why did I read these? Yes, I read all three books a few months ago. Well, horrible as they are, they were still better than the medical school material I had to study.


Fifty Shades Trilogy: Fifty Shades of Grey – Book Review (EL James)

The Fifty Shades trilogy, whose three books are currently are the top three sellers in the United States, is anything but tame. The first book, titled Fifty Shades of Grey, should have been titled Fifty Shades of Scarlet. That’s how your face will be while reading it – especially if there’s someone peaking at your copy.

Ana Steele is a soon-to-be college graduate in her early twenties who’s asked by her best friend, Kate, to go and interview a self-made young enigmatic billionaire named Christian Grey at the HQ of his company. Knowing nothing about him, the interview isn’t exactly top notch. But it works well enough for Christian to develop an interest in Ana, who reciprocates the feeling.

What Ana doesn’t know is that Christian Grey is controlling, seriously into BDSM, with a playroom in his huge Seattle apartment, and who wants Ana to be his submissive beyond anything he’s ever wanted before.

Fifty Shades of Grey is carnal. There’s nothing that happens in the 500-pages book apart from the two main characters having sex all the time. The sex scenes are also graphically detailed. Fifty Shades of Grey is porn on paper.

Ana Steele is so one-dimensional as a character that she can’t even remotely draw you in. For a self-proclaimed virgin who can’t wait to be deflowered by Christian, she sure develops an insatiable need for sex. Her character is so shallow that the few moments where she appears to be different are marred by what immediately follows: her relapsing into the girl/women who can’t but seek Christian’s approval. The words “oh my” are present at every sentence to signal her astonishment as she explores the boundaries of her body, reveling in the eroticism of it all. Her “inner-goddess” never gets enough. And it quickly becomes grating.

Christian’s need, on the other hand, is never fully explained. While he is the more interesting character, the potential complexity is barely touched, never delved in. He’s left to his rough exterior, barely ruffled. And if Ana’s needy for sex, she can barely keep up with Christian who never seems to get enough. It eventually becomes repetitive, not adding anything to the story but useless pages to increase the book’s spine.

Fifty Shades of Grey doesn’t manage to go five shades deep, it remains afloat, blowing you, no pun intended, with sex scene after another, after another and then some. It’s a shallow, useless read. It’s repetitive beyond imagination. The characters initiate intercourse using the same gestures: biting their lips, cocking their heads to the side… that you get to smell it coming, no pun intended – again, from a mile away. The success of this book baffles me. I am not a reader of erotic fiction and I don’t think I’ll ever be. But if an erotic book at least had a plot to support it, I can comprehend people going for it. Fifty Shades of Grey has nothing in it.

I pity the person who had to do the audiobook for this.


J.K. Rowling Reveals New Book Title & Details: The Casual Vacancy

Harry Potter author, who really doesn’t need such a prefix, J.K. Rowling just announced via her website the title for her new novel for adults: The Casual Vacancy.

Via a statement, her publishers outlined the plot for the book in the following manner:

When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock.

Seemingly an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.

The book will be published on September 27th in the U.S. and U.K.

Will you be getting it? It sure sounds like an interesting read. We all know J.K. Rowling has a knack to write stories about power struggles.

I am quite excited about what Rowling has to offer outside the Potter world. Although one more Potter book sure wouldn’t hurt either.

Harry Potter e-books Now Available

Rejoice Harry Potter fans. Your favorite book series is now available for your reading pleasure as e-books, which work on any device you own: iPad, iPhone, Kindle, etc….

The news was announced via Pottermore after many surveys for the website’s users asking them about their opinion regarding Harry Potter e-books.
The first three Harry Potter books: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets & Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban are priced at $7.96 each. The subsequent four installments: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince & Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows are priced at $11.15 each.

The whole collection can be purchased at a 10% introductory discount for $61.65 from the Pottermore shop.

You can also get the books from Amazon for $7.99 for the first three and $9.99 for the rest, but not from Apple’s iBookstore. They probably couldn’t reach a deal with J.K. Rowling regarding shares.

Why is buying the series as soft copies a good idea?
I was the most skeptical about e-books. But when I started reading on my iPad, I found out the experience to be as engaging, if not more, than reading on paper. You can highlight sentences you like, bookmark pages and passages – you can really make the book your own, which is something that I don’t like to do with a paper copy, wanting to keep it in a pristine condition.

At a time when e-books are on the rise, Harry Potter is now catering to the growing market: he future of reading is in soft copies that can be downloaded to your personal device in less than a minute. Those who haven’t read the books, this is your chance to hop on the bandwagon of this cultural phenomenon. You won’t be disappointed.
For those who have read the books, perhaps coughing up $60 for the books is a little unnecessary at this time, but if you feel like you need to own a soft copy of them, then why not, I guess?