Like I mentioned in my last blog, THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky has a plot that I’ve been having a lot of trouble dissecting.  It’s very similar to SPEAK, in the sense that it’s one year out of a teenager’s life.  In both books, the storyline encompasses their first year of high school. However, unlike SPEAK, PERKS doesn’t have a well-defined story question.  There isn’t that compelling sense that something bad (or good) is going to happen or a lingering aggravation that the author is withholding information to keep you reading.  There is a little ambiguity about some trauma in the main character’s past but it isn’t the driving force of the book.  The school year goes along the way that most school years do: punctuated by holidays and weekends.  As a writer that likes to analyze things, it’s MADDENING.  Why on earth did I keep reading this book?  Beyond that, why did I devour it in one four hour sitting?

I can only come up one idea: I kept reading this book was because it reminded me that people don’t always suck.

Charlie is a vulnerable little guy.  He’s gifted and he’s sensitive.  To me, that sounds like bully fodder waiting to happen.  When Charlie falls in with this older crowd that’s waaaay more experienced than he is, I was sure they would break him. Briefly I thought that was exactly where the story was headed.  But it wasn’t long before I realized that wasn’t going to happen.  He found friends–real friends.  The kind of people that Charlie might still know into his adulthood.  They took care of him and he, in his small way, took care of them.  It was beautiful.

Charlie is also very introspective.  He looks at what people are going through and relates that to the way they behave.  For instance, Charlie’s step-grandfather beat Charlie’s dad and aunt.  Charlie knows that’s the reason why his late Aunt dated men who liked to hurt her and why she drank too much.  He also knows that’s why his father is stern and unemotional.  Charlie doesn’t blame them for the way they act; he tried to understand them.

But, that isn’t a plot, is it?

So, after wrestling with this for a couple of days, I can’t figure out the plot.  Why does it work?  Why do I keep turning the pages?  It was beautiful writing.  It had round, compelling characters.  But the thread that holds this story together? I just don’t know.  It really feels much more like I had stumbled on to a shoebox full of letters and just happened to be reading them.

Perhaps it’s the voyeuristic pleasure that made me eat up this little morsel.  Maybe it’s the fact that I loved the characters and wanted to spend more time with them.  Maybe it’s just that a person’s life is interesting enough without explosions or vampires to keep this reader completely enthralled.  Whatever it was, this book was compelling and can’t put my finger on why.

I’m glad that next time I’m going to be looking at the writing style on Monday.  This book is deceptively easy to read.  The vocabulary and the sentence structure stay simple so that the ideas can be complex.  Until then!

That very cool photograph is by artist Filomena Scalise and I found it on