"We accept the love we think we deserve..."
Being a teenager is hard. People can say it isn't all they want to, and to be honest, the problems faced by most teenagers are silly, but not always. And it's these deep rooted problems they carry under their shirt that cause the most pain.
Charlie carries a problem - a deep dark secret that he doesn't even understand because it's been buried so far beneath the surface he can't even remember it. Until he does. His freshman year of high school rekindles a whirlwind of emotion for him that eventually leads to a second undoing (he's fresh out of the mental hospital when we meet Charlie because he can't come to grips with the suicide of his best friend - how could he not have known? is the question that plagues him).
Charlie is deeply sentimental and kind, but in some ways a doormat. The novel traces his development as a person through the friends that take him in and help him become a better young man. In the end, Charlie is a character the reader will fall in love with despite his flaws, and all of his other friends, too. They each grab a piece of the heart and don't let go.
I think the draw to this novel, while not exceptionally written (it's done in an epistolary style of letters to an unknown person), is that it connects and creates very strong emotional reactions in the reader. Maybe this is because we've all been teenagers and felt the sting of broken hearts and bitter friendships, or we've known someone that dealt with truly terrifying problems and watched their transformation into a well-rounded human being, or maybe we've experienced these roller-coaster events in our own lives and felt a connection to a character suffering in the way we did. Whatever it is, the connection is strong.
I LOVED the inclusion of The Rocky Horror Picture Show as a modality of the action, and I think it opened this great piece of work to a new generation of young people.
I enjoyed this book as did the January Book Club!