Rating: 2 stars
“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”
I wanted to buy this book for a while now, and finally, I did. I heard amazing things about this book, and I was pretty excited to read this book…but it left me disappointed.
Charlie has just entered his freshman year of high school, and he meets his two best friends, Sam and Patrick who help guide him through the year with discovering young love, sex, drugs, and family drama. This book is told through letters to presuming the reader. I wasn’t a big fan of this writing format, I didn’t think it was anything special.
It also states at the beginning of this book that all the names of the character of the book aren’t the real names of the people, which I think is an interesting thing to mention especially in a fiction novel.
I will start with the negatives of this book:
The first negative thing about this book that I personally didn’t like was how brief every topic was. How it was written was, the situation would be brought up, then spoke a couple sentences about it, and the immediately moved on. The bigger issues in this book, for example, was sexual abuse, abortion, incest, molestation, drugs, suicide, and homosexuality. These are all heavy topics but it seemed to not be a big issue to really any of the characters, which it should have had some point if it was brought up. I think the most topics that were addressed were homosexuality and sexual abuse.
My second negative point is that Charlie had a very special relationship with his Aunt Helen and that was brought up throughout the book. It was only really implied that his Aunt molested him when he was younger. I think that it should have been clear if that actually happened because not only me but a lot more people who have read this book were confused.
There was a scene that was mentioned about this couple went into the room where Charlie was, and the guy, Dave was forcing his girlfriend to do sexual things, all while Charlie was in the room. It was a scene that only was talked about for less than two pages, and was never brought up again, so I didn’t understand how something uncomfortable should have been put in there without a purpose. And it confuses me that why Charlie was there after this started happening, and why Dave wasn’t uncomfortable that he was in the room, to begin with, and the girl was obviously uncomfortable. Charlie after tells his sister that he didn’t know what they were doing, but he had to know after things started to happen.
There were a couple times that masturbation has come up, and the first time, I guess was okay because he discovered it for the first time, but the second time it was brought up it was Charlie explaining what he used while masturbating, which I found completely unnecessary because it didn’t have anything to do with the plot or anything relevant.
I understand that teenagers experiment with drugs and alcohol but when he mentions that he begins smoking about 10 cigarettes a day, that’s very extensive especially since Charlie is only 14 or 15. I also didn’t like how Charlie was high on LSD and no one made a big deal about it because it’s a harsher drug, he said he wouldn’t do it again but it’s just the fact that it happened. Also, the whole smoking weed thing is like the smoking cigarette situation as well.
I also felt that it was unnecessary to bring up that almost every character mentioned has cried at least one time throughout this book. It’s understandable that they cried for situational reasons but the fact it basically was, “they cried.” and then immediately moved onto some other topic didn’t make me feel any emotion towards them or the situation because there wasn’t any time too because it was never focused on in depth.
The writing as I mentioned was told in a letter form, but the way things were phrased mostly relating back to things I said, everything that was mentioned was usually pretty brief and maybe that’s because it was a letter but I felt that there could be a few letters going into depth about heavier topics to add some emotion to this story because it lacked a lot of things, including emotion, which I felt that’s what the author wanted.
“And feel like he belongs to something whenever he’s sad. I hope it can be that for him.”
There are a few things I did like though:
Charlie is observant, strong and smart, and I think that was consistent throughout the book which was helpful for the story because most of it wasn’t very consistent. I did like his relationship with his English teacher, although the part where they met outside of school was a bit weird to me, besides that, I feel as though if Charlie didn’t have this teacher, he would have felt more lost in school.
I also liked his relationship with Patrick because I think Charlie was good for Patrick, and vice versa because Charlie was an outcast, and Patrick made him feel welcome and he did learn a lot about life and being a teenager. Charlie was always there for Patrick especially when the whole Brad situation came about. I will note the few kisses they shared were weird to me because Charlie didn’t want it to happen but Patrick did it anyway, so I was confused about that.
Sam’s relationship with Charlie was set early on when she told him that they couldn’t be together. There were a few scenes where they shared a kiss and got pretty intimate with each other but that was towards the end. I’m confused on what changed her mind since Charlie’s feelings never changed nor he acted upon them. I think their friendship was good, not like Patrick’s but still was good for Charlie. The ending is uncertain if they are together or not, I assume not but I don’t know.
Other minor relationships in the book were with his sister, they didn’t show much to have a relationship until she told him that she was pregnant and then after, they bonded more, which I think was also what Charlie needed. Another relationship was with Mary Elizabeth and I don’t know how I feel about them. I think she was good for him to be a first date/girlfriend to him, but their intimate moments were fast considering he wasn’t even ready to kiss her on the first date.
The ending of this book is more imaginative for the reader’s, it is said that he blacked out but other’s speculate that he committed suicide. I think adding an imaginative ending in books can be interesting, however, in this book, the ending should have been clear because there were other elements in this book that weren’t clear and were confusing to try and figure out so I think having a strong conclusion would have helped the story.
Overall, this book disappointed me a lot, and I found more negatives than positives in the story. I enjoyed the relationships throughout the book but the writing and story structure failed to meet what this story needed.
“So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.”