Stephen Chbosky’s novel “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” first came out in 1999. I was a year out of college, working at the literary agency as an assistant, trying to work my way up to being a literary agent.
I remember hanging out with someone in Berkeley after I had just read the book, and we walked into a bookstore where the book was displayed on the front table. “I’m going to read you the best line in this book,” I said. A teen girl tells a teen boy before she kisses him, “‘I want to make sure that the first person you kiss loves you. Okay?‘”
Okay. I know that’s really sappy, but I remember thinking that was like the sweetest most lovely thing I had read in a long time. I remember thinking that this book was such a gem, just little and wonderful. It is written in a sort of confessional diary style, in the form of letters, by the 15 year old narrator Charlie to a “Friend.” Publishers Weekly gave it a pretty harsh review, calling it “a trite coming-of-age novel,” which I totally get, especially now that I’m older. But you know, whatever. I loved this book in that moment I consumed it, and I’ll remember it for that.
This was also an exciting time for me in publishing, because I was kind of just finding my way in the industry, and publishers were just starting to create imprints specifically marketed toward young adults/the MTV audience, and this was totally my jam. Young agents selling books to young editors to bring cool books to young people. My publishing career didn’t end up being that cool or anything, but there was this potential then in the early years that got me really pumped to be there.
Last Saturday night, I had a long overdue girl-date with Manda. We had mexican food and margaritas and went to see this movie together. There’s a certain part of the plot which has always really bothered me since reading the book (for being an easy way out, so to speak), but otherwise, I think the movie does a good job in capturing the spirit of the book, which is logical since the author also wrote the screenplay, produced, and directed the movie.
Part of me was like, “Kids are never this sweet to each other!” And another part of me was like, “Stop having crabby old-person thoughts!”
So, if you are a crabby old-person, you might want to skip this movie. But if you are young at heart and want to watch something sweet with kind of a dark ripple running through it, you should check it out. As I told Manda before we saw the movie, “It’s a teen movie, but it’s not, like, ‘She’s All That’ or ‘Bring It On.’ It’s serious. But the book was good.”