The PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER is one of those books that can hit you pretty hard. For me, someone who felt pretty isolated as a young adult, someone who could really have benefited from the Internet and social media, it had an intense impact. I was that weird kid. I am still that weird kid.
A friend recently watched the movie and a group of us gathered to watch it with her. Comparisons to the book were inevitable, and sort of the whole point. While I didn’t dislike the movie (of course I thought the book was better), the film did remind me of something critical that the book taught me: those first real friends, the first people you meet who are like you, can save your life.
Another important reminder was how easily we forget our young adult experience. Some people seem forever caught in that time, perpetual teenagers who skipped the valuable steps of finding one’s self. Others seem destroyed by it: what happened to them in that period never goes away. It lingers as a destructive time. And still, a third group seems content to wholly forget what it was like to come of age. These are the parents who can’t imagine why their teens act the way they do.
PERKS is an important book to me because it depicts the time when I came of age, and it references wonderful music like the Smiths, already defunct when I discovered them but whose songs spoke so clearly to what I was feeling and going through.
Since I write YA, I work hard to remember it all (embarrassing and painful as much of it is). It would be easy to slip into self-pity here, but I look back at my experience and realize that while I was that weird kid, he grew into a unique adult who can’t imagine being anybody else. And I think of the good friends I’ve had, then and since, all a little weird in their own way, and I’m grateful for every one.