Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Teen Roundtable: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

For this month’s roundtable, our spies and operatives had an assignment: Read THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER and come prepared to chat about it! And we did! But before diving into discussion, Lissa started us with a most SERIOUS question:
Lissa: !?!??!!??!??!?! 
El Cholo (aka COPIL): That's too serious. Let's keep things light, people. 
Lissa: LOL Copil I'm sorry, I just couldn't help myself :S 
Alexandra: Just 2, both in the theater. 
Alison: wait for it...Alison has only watched the DVD once. But I did see it twice in the theater 
Katy: Aaah! I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't bought it yet. Once in the theater, and I want to get the DVD so bad! 
Alexandra: The douchebag I was with the second time when I watched it said he didn't like JLaw as Katniss. I did not like his opinions or his ability to speak. 
Alison: Well, I hope you dumped said douche.
Katy: He has bad taste, clearly.
Lissa: He has no idea whattt he's talking about! I thought she was amazing! 
Alexandra: (Oh I would NEVER EVER date that guy. I was with him and other people.) Jennifer Lawrence made me warm up to Katniss, so she's great and I won't hear anyone say otherwise 
Riv Re: I was wary of Jen at first, but she was amazing. It's all in her eyes. 

Erica: Oops, sorry I'm a few minutes late. I got distracted reading. 
Alison: Erica, you are COMPLETELY forgiven.  What were you reading, btw? 
Erica: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman 
Alexandra: OMG I loved that one! 
Lissa: Loved Seraphina. I wish I had the sequel in my hands so bad right now 
Riv Re: dragons, right? 
Erica: yes 
Alison: oooh - I've heard good things about that one. *winks at Alexandra* 
Alexandra: ;)
Riv Re: *winks as well* (feeling left out) 
Erica: I'm really liking it so far! 

So, onto THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER. Here’s the good reads blurb…

Standing on the fringes of life... offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

This is the story of what it's like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.

How many of you read Perks? (It's OKAY if you didn't!)

El Cholo: I didn't. But I started it and I'm here to discuss what others liked about it. Did most of you read the book because of word of mouth from a friend? Or hear about it elsewhere? 
Alison:  At least one of my students list it as their favorite book every year. I had to read it. 

Lissa: Read it!
Katy: I read it last month. Mostly because Emma Watson is going to be in the movie.  
Erica: I didn't. I meant to, but I've been so busy with the show I was directing. 

Riv Re: I didn't, but I love the movie trailers. (I know, I'm committing a cardinal sin.)
Alexandra: Now that I've read it, I'm quite interested in how they are going to pull it off as a movie 

Lissa: I'm worried about how the movie will be pulled off, too
Alison: As stated in the previews (which make me BAWL), it's BASED on the book 
Lissa: My younger sister (12) is a huge Logan Lerman fan and she was all excited to watch the movie, but after I read it, I'm wondering if it might be too mature for her, who still doesn't even like to admit that boys don't have cooties :S 
Alison: I'm not sure about letting my 13 year old read it, BUT she does want to see the movie (huge Percy/Logan fan) and I think it will be much tamer than the book 
Riv Re: Alison, what age would you say it's for? 
Katy: I read it mostly because Jessica Love was raving about it, but Alison, I'm not sure I'd let my 13 year old read it. 
Lissa: I'd say 14+ or for mature 13 year olds. If I'd read it at 13, though, I'm sure I would have put it back down. There's just so MUCH in that book 
Alison: I say upper YA but idk there is a lot 
Riv Re: I'm learning to appreciate the "upper YA" label. 

In the book, one of the characters calls Charlie (the mc) a wallflower. He says to Charlie, “You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.” Do you agree with that? What do you think being a wallflower is? Also, what ARE the perks of being a wallflower?

Lissa: I think that being a "wallflower" means you're the quiet, observant person, but I'd have to disagree with Charlie being called that. Yeah, totally, he's a quiet kid, but he seemed underdeveloped for me even though he's in AP classes 
Alexandra: Lissa, I felt that way, too. He seemed a lot younger than a freshman in high school. His writing style specifically wasn't very advanced so I was at odds with him being smart the whole book. 
Lissa: His writing seemed immature to me and he honestly seemed a little slow in a lot of situations, which seemed to confuse me because all his teachers and friends consider him brilliant 
Alexandra: I feel like a wallflower would be a very observant person, and Charlie OBSERVED a lot, but I didn't feel like he processed it very well or very introspectively 
Katy: Alexandra, I totally agree 
Alexandra: He sees things and he keeps quiet about them, but whether or not he really UNDERSTOOD is up for debate 
Katy: he was good at relaying what was happening around him, but not really analyzing and GETTING it. 
Lissa: Yeah, maybe that's a better way of putting it, Alexandra. In some situations I was shocked that he didn't pick up stuff or didn't understand what he was seeing 
Alexandra: Lissa I think you put it really well, too 
El Cholo: Did these impressions last throughout the book? I was feeling this way at the beginning and wondered if it went all the way to the end. 
Alison: But (close your eyes if you haven't read), there are reasons he's a little backwards and somewhat seemingly slow in situations, yes? 
Lissa: Alison, I didn't really get the part where all the things "come together." Did he have a developmental issue? Was he depressed/anxious? I know he had a past that affected him a lot, but I didn't really understand how that tied in with the way he behaved, if I'm honest.
Alison: Lissa, his issues stemmed from incidents that happened when he was younger (and that's all the spoiler you get). Also, remember that he had anger issues - really hurting people when he got angry - and subject to unexplained uncontrollable crying. He was depressed…a lot.
Riv Re: I haven't read the book yet, but I'm reading all this, and it's so sad! You're making me sad, Alison!  
Alison: It's a sad bookl  But also a very happy one too.
Lissa: I don't think there are many perks to being a wallflower, but again, I don't think Charlie could be considered a wallflower. He was on the edge for a lot of things, but he did become involved in a lot of stuff too as the book went on 
Katy: I think he saw what he wanted to see in many situations, if that makes sense. Blinders, maybe 
Alison: perfect sense                                          
Katy: that and at times I wondered how reliable he was
Lissa: Katy, I had to wonder about his reliability too. He seemed vague about things and then he seemed dishonest about a ton of things 
Alexandra: I had a hard time with the narration in total, truth be told, and ergo I often had a hard time understanding what Charlie did see or understand, because he jumped around topics SO often 
Alison: I also felt part of his wallflower-ish-ness was how introspective he was 
Alexandra: Here's what I wrote in my book about the introspectiveness: "This is why I don't like first person narration. I can't get any space. My face is smashed up against the glass of his thoughts and I want to step back but he won't let me."  I was so in his head the whole time I felt stripped of my ability to imagine anything.
Katy: That's pretty perfect, Alexandra. He was a particularly suffocating narrator. Oddly, though, I didn't hate him 
Lissa: Alexandra, I think that was probably the intention of the narrative though. Charlie's being trapped by all his thoughts and he's writing them out to someone to try and sort them out, and while that doens't make for a very assembled reading experience, I think it was totally intentional and worked, characterization/narration wise 
Alexandra: Lissa, I see your point, and I agree. I think it was intentional, and it conveyed a certain kind of reading experience and perhaps what it was like to be bogged down by his muddled thoughts.  I didn't hate him either, I just had a hard time with the structure 
Lissa: I really dislike letter-format in books. I've never read a book where I've appreciated that format 
Alexandra: Structure is a make it or break it for me--if you guys notice, every time I say I hate a book (Wuthering Heights, looking at YOU) I moan about the structure. So there's that 
Alison: I actually was very okay with the structure. But I can see the letter thing and how honest and in his head made for a tough read

Who do you guys think the "friend" he was writing to was?

Alexandra: I think, if you strip away enough, he was writing to himself. I think he needed to have "someone" to write to, because it's harder to say those things to yourself. So he needed that facade of writing to someone else, to get out all the things he needed to hear from within. And the ability to mail them off and let them go. 
Lissa: Huh, good point 
Alexandra: Just my theory though 
Katy: I like that theory, Alexandra... That's what I was thinking too  
Lissa: I hardly thought about who he was writing to, tbh. Sometimes I thought it was aunt, even though it didn't fit in with the story he told us in the very beginning 
Katy: I considered his aunt too, Lissa 
Alison: good theory, but he does mention how the friend is someone he heard someone else talking about, but I CAN'T FIND IT RIGHT NOW 
Alexandra: I don't mean he wasn't really writing to someone. I think he really was mailing the letters to that person he heard someone else talking about, but I think the REASON behind it was because he needed to talk to himself. 
Alison: yeah, I'm with you on that, Alexandra 
Alexandra: Notice that he picked an almost complete stranger, rather than someone he knows, to send these letters to. 
Lissa: I think he did that because he had such a hard time talking about himself. He rarely ever talked about himself - maybe it was hard for him? - and he basically just listened to other people talk about their lives while nobody really asked about his 

(SIDE NOTE: Alison eventually found the page, LONG after the chat. If you’re curious, he somewhat specifies who he’s writing to on the last page before the epilogue.)

On the friend line: Charlie considers the reader a friend, simply because he or she listens to what Charlie has to say. Do you consider yourself Charlie's friend by the end of the novel? Why or why not?
And...AND would you have been friends with Charlie? Why or why not?

Katy: Honestly, I'm not sure I would have been friends with Charlie, but I would have been friends with Charlie's friends. 
Lissa: By the end of the book, I wasn't sure how I felt about Charlie. Sure, I could empathize and understand him, but I don't think I'd be very good friends with him because it would be a very one-sided friendship 
Alison: which was Sam's point at the end too 
Alexandra: I'm extremely introverted, but I think Charlie would have irritated even me 
Alison: I would've been friends with him mainly because my heart hurt for him so much. I cried for him and I laughed when he said things like No kidding! and when he was happy, i was happy. And now I sound like E.T. 
Lissa: Charlie reminded me of myself, too, introvert-wise, but I think it'd be very difficult to be his friend, especially in the beginning of the book 
Alexandra: The good thing about him is that he did have a very distinct personality and voice. Enough that we all could at least make this kind of assessment about him. 
Alison: BUT I don't know if I would've been like Sam and Patrick...and pulled him in. 
Lissa: Yeah, me either Alison.  I personally thought that the way he just went up to them was very uncharacteristic of him, too 
Alexandra: I wouldn't have pulled him in, and I wouldn't have liked being pulled in. At 14 I liked very much to be left alone--I wasn't secretly hoping for someone to befriend me. Tangent question: why do you think Sam and Patrick pulled him in? What drew them to him? (Since we're from his perspective, we have to extrapolate about why they liked him.) 
Lissa: I think they probably could see some of themselves in him. They both had issues they had to get through 
Alison: Good question, Alexandra. My thought was What draws us to who we are drawn to? 
Lissa: and Charlie probably seemed like he could use someone to sort things through with, too, like they had each other. That makes no structual sense as a sentence, sorry, but I think you know what I mean 
Alexandra: Like a combination of common ground, but at the same time having something the other person needs. 

On a different note, what's the deal with Bill, Charlie's English teacher?

Lissa: I thought he was creeepy, frankly. I would be FREAKED if a teacher asked me to his house 
Katy: Me too, Lissa! It's a little odd when teachers zone in so specifically on one student.  And I liked that Bill was so encouraging to Charlie, but I was a little sketched out by him 
Alison: Yes, I was a little creeped out by Bill's initial attention on Charlie, but he grew on me. 
Alexandra: Bill needed to recommend more books written by WOMEN!
Alison: What was your impression with Bill by the end of the book? 
Alexandra: I never warmed up to Bill because I disliked his reading choices. My feminism doesn't have an on/off switch. (I know, it sounds like I totally hated the book. I actually enjoyed reading it and read it over 2 days.) 
Riv Re: I never get through books in 2 days anymore--it's really sad
Alison: This one is short. You could do it.
Riv Re: Maybe. But I've become a slow reader lately, and there's this weird thing: a "sense of responsibility" that ovetakes me at 3 in the morning when I'm trying to read. 
Alexandra: Oh crap, ditch that while you still can. 

Because the story’s set in the 90s, there is a lot of talk of music and mix tapes from the era. Let's say you've got 30 minutes a side to your blank cassette tape. What songs would you put on it to make a mix tape for your best friend? (or maybe I should say “make a playlist”)

Riv Re: Oh! I have a song! Sort of. It's recent, and my bestie hates it, but it reminds me of her: "Sarah Smiles" by Panic! at the Disco 
Erica: For Good from Wicked would definitely go on it. 
Riv Re: definintely For Good...though it is a little bit sad and nostalgic, more of a good bye song 
Erica: I like it for the message - not necessarily for the literal interpretation 
Alexandra: I have NO idea what I'd put on a mix tape... 
Alison: It depends on the friend. I kind of identified with a lot of that stuff in the book because my friends and I used to do the same thing.
Alexandra: I have a friend who used to make mix cds for all her friends--a couple favorite songs of mine came from the cds she made me. I love receiving playlists or mixes from friends because it says a lot about them and a lot about how they think of me. I'm terrible at giving them, though.

And that’s when time ran out on us. :(

If you’re curious as to my thoughts on the book, I’ll be discussing gushing about it Wednesday on my personal blog. You’re welcome to stop by, check it out. Bring coffee. :)

Have YOU read The Perks of Being a Wallflower? What are your thoughts? And what would YOU put on a “mix tape” for a friend?


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