I was lent this by a student at school – ironically as one of the main features in the book is that Charlie is lent books by his English teacher! It took a while to get around to actually opening it, until I ran out of time and had to read it before the kid left school! I think the word “wallflower” in the title put me off! Once I did start though, I did have to concede that it is an extremely good book!
The book is an epistolary novel and we are never told to whom Charlie, a rather disturbed young man at high school, is writing. I suppose that this anonymity is designed to encourage the reader to feel that the letters are written to them directly. The story, therefore, needs an authentic and engaging voice to succeed, and I felt it did achieve this. It is clear throughout that the narrator is not a traditional school child: there are elements that feel autistic, elements that feel almost schizophrenic in his character; he is under the care of a psychiatrist throughout the novel and has difficulty engaging in his own life. He seems to prefer being the “wallflower” of the title: observing life around him, rather than taking part.
The novel does have a rather sixties / seventies feel to it, possibly because some elements of the story are meant to be autobiographical. The drug taking, LSD and cannabis, did feel out of date and, despite these nebulous sixties feelings, i felt that there were strangely few references to specific culture or contemporary life to fix it in time. I suppose this may be a deliberate choice to create a “timeless”, “classic” feel but it did jar a little.
There is a twist at the end of the novel, which does lend some explanation for Charlie’s condition, and it has to be said that this actually took me by surprise! Without wanting to sound big-headed, but as an English teacher and avid reader, that doesn’t happen often!!
And of course there is the film coming out this year too, apparently.