I feel infinite.

Ok, so I have said before that I don’t particularly like to do reviews on this blog. I am not someone who feels books can necessarily be broken down by a reader for another reader. Reading is incredibly subjective. My agent friend and I recently discussed this in relation to my manuscript and her notes. So that is not what this is. At all.

A couple Road Trip Wednesday’s ago we had to write about our “best book in August”, and a bunch of the other carnival participants had read and chosen The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I had been planning to read it since the movie is coming out soon, but had been putting it off. All those who read it and discussed it on RTW did not necessarily encourage me to bump it up my Goodreads list anytime soon. I was actually dreading reading this book. I was actually terribly afraid of what I would find within the pages.

This week is back to school week, and almost on a whim, I decided it was time. (After thinking in detail about my high school years, both in and out of public school for the most recent Road Trip Wednesday.) I sat down yesterday evening after dinner with my Kindle and began to read. Around seven we had to go get my son diapers, so I had to take a break. We came back and I dove right back in. I didn’t much stop after that. My husband kindly played with Sam while I was absorbed into Charlie’s world. I couldn’t pull myself out. I was afraid of where this story was going, wracked with worry over Charlie and his open, exposed heart. I was torn up by the world he was watching unfold, and in love with it too. In love with him.

I will not give more information about the plot of the book, I will only say this: I cried for all the right reasons. That is all I can say because I don’t want you to miss out on the experience of feeling it all should you choose to read it. And you should choose to read it if you haven’t already. As I said on my Wednesday in response to the RTW question, my experience in high school was not a good one, and my parents took me out rather than subject themselves or anyone else to anymore turmoil.

This problem with school, both socially and disciplinarily, actually began much, much earlier than high school. High school was not the first time my parents took me out. After fifth grade I was home schooled with my best friend for two school years. When we moved to Colorado I went back to public school because I needed a way to make friends. I spent the first six weeks eating lunch with my eighth grade English teacher. She really encouraged me to find my way. I did not do well. I made friends, and enemies, I was a compulsive liar and troublemaker. I liked to create drama and intrigue wherever I went. I did eventually find comfort in the drama kids and a special grammar workshop my English teacher put me in. I loved my Community Service teacher (it was a weird elective, I know), and I terrorized my alcoholic science teacher. A man who never gave me detention even though I really, really deserved it. I made some good friends, and had some poetic interactions.

As I read about Charlie I ached. In my life I have had a few experiences like this with books. Overall I love to read, but not always does a book actually create something new in me. (To Kill a Mockingbird, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, to name a few.) This book was published when I was in eighth grade. I wish I had found it then. I needed it then. Now is OK, but then would have been amazing.

For me, Charlie is a boy I know, and a piece of myself, and someone totally new. I think this book is incredibly relevant to the audience it targets because it is true. Yes, he is deeply intelligent and poetic, but his experience is also filled with honesty and sadness and hope, and that is needed. The concept of being completely present in life is a hard one to hold on to, whether you are fifteen or twenty seven. Charlie holds on to it, even when he comes up against something terribly bleak. This is worth taking to heart.

I am a mom to a son, and a sister to brothers, and a wife to a man who was once a high school wallflower-art-prodigy. I was also an outcast of my own creation. The Perks of Being a Wallflower touched on all those parts of me. If you have read it, I would love to hear your feedback. If you haven’t, do and then write me. For now here is the trailer for the upcoming film.

Road Trip Wednesday: # 146

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. We ,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This weeks topic is:  Back to school time! What’s your favorite book that you had to read for a class?

High school was brief in my case, at least, public high school anyway. When I was a freshman my family lived in Colorado right down the street from Lewis Palmer High School. My brother and I both attended, but for me, high school was a bad dream. I got into trouble. Not your typical teenage rebellion, the trouble I found for myself had nothing to do with smoking pot on school grounds or vandalism. Mine was about justice (or my fifteen year-old skewed perspective of justice, which usually had to do with my authorities messing with my plans) and it usually meant tense confrontation with teachers I had no interest in understanding. I was frustrated with my life, felt trapped and out-of-place in Colorado, and missed family and friends back home. One teacher really had it out for me though. He taught algebra and grouped me in with the vapid mean girls I would never associate with under any form of torture, let alone his stupid glass. I was more of a drama geek than a cheerleader type. I also didn’t like being boxed. When he then punished this group of girls, including me, a foe was created. I spent the rest of my (short) career in his class terrorizing him. I also landed in ISS and Detention more times in three months than I like to recall. And that was just one of the irons I had in the fire. Needless to say, my parents decided that I should be schooled at home.

In my home schooling I read a lot of books — what else did I have to do?— and wrote a lot of crazy plays and short stories. One book, the book I am choosing as my response, was also one of the first books I read in my private education. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, struck the outcast in me like lightening.

 

I remember feeling Hester was someone I could be, someone I could actually understand and relate to. A testament to the classics is their long-term relevance. That book was published 150 years before I was reading it, and yet is made me feel almost normal. No, I was not a woman branded by adultery and raising the illegitimate child that was a result, but I felt branded nonetheless. I felt like the part of me that was true was deeply misunderstood. I carried secrets, and had few real friends. The tragic ending also played into my overly-dramatic-hopelessly-romantic side. At that time the idea of dying for love was super appealing to me, a girl who had never been in love or anywhere near love’s neighborhood.

I spent a lot of time with the classics as a teen, especially once I entered my banned book phase. But The Scarlet Letter was one of the first times I truly felt kindred to a character, and it was a character written well-before high school algebra teachers were throwing girls in detention because they threw a ruler at their head when called “sweetheart”.

What about you? What high school required reading book stands out in your mind today?

P.S. The website I pulled The Scarlet Letter book cover from featured an article about fashions inspired by the book. It was awesome, here’s the link.