It's one of my favorite books. Actually, it's one of many, many people's favorite books, but I am especially selfishly possessive of it. I try not to let that show because it's very annoying behavior, very hipster-esque even though I didn't discover it first or anything, not at all. It's just that the story and the characters and the words feel very personal to me. And though the fact that it's relatable is probably why so many people like it, I still find myself feeling like it was written just for me. Selfish, I know, but what can you do?
I first read the book last March, during spring break. I had been looking for it for a while in libraries and bookstores and I finally found it at a Barnes & Noble in Los Angeles. I read it less than a day, sitting cross-legged on the threadbare carpet of the hotel hallway, sitting on a plastic lounge chair under the fake shade of a palm tree while airplanes thundered overhead, circling around the nearby airport. Some books you always remember where you first read them and that memory of where you were, and how you were, to an extent, too, gets tangled up in the story forevermore. That's how it is for me a little.
When I first read the book, I was fifteen and I was a wallflower. Charlie really resonated with me, maybe unlike any fictional character had before. Here was someone who thought about things as much as I did and who didn't always speak up, either. Here was someone who was just as sentimental and shy and scared as I was. Here was someone who knew how I felt. I was half in love with him but I knew it wouldn't work out because we were too similar, and also, he was fictional.
And then at the end, when he said he might not write anymore because he would be too busy participating, I almost felt betrayed. Why do characters always have to come around and change by the end of the book, when in real life it's not like that at all? I'm still waiting for my ending, I guess.
Anyway, that was almost ten months ago that I first read Perks. Since then I've gone back and reread my favorite passages periodically, the kind of thing you do when you need something to comfort yourself. Specific parts make my heart hurt in good ways. Like, "You can't just sit there and put everybody's lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can't." Ouch. That one hits home. I remember writing in my journal the day after homecoming, thinking about that quote, feeling so confused, feeling all at once too selfish and too selfless, the latter of which seems like a stuck-up thing to say but if you knew, you'd understand, how what you need is a happy medium but what I have is too far weighed down on both sides. I was thinking about that one and about what it means to truly be happy for someone and it reminds me of this now: "It's like when you are excited about a girl and you see a couple holding hands, and you feel so happy for them. And other times you see the same couple, and they make you so mad. And all you want is to always feel happy for them because you know that if you do, then it means that you're happy too." I still find new things every time I skim through.
The thing is, I'm sixteen and a half now and I'm still something of a wallflower. I see things, I keep quiet, and I understand. Maybe I'll always be like that. I don't know. But the other thing is? I'm also learning to participate more. I'm starting to try new things, to speak up more, to not be so afraid of dumb things. The way I process life brands me an introvert -- I think too much and analyze things beyond comprehension and use writing to help me figure things out. But I also feel happiest when I am doing stuff with people, y'know? When I'm living. When I have something to write about. Moments to enjoy, moments that will later be stories.
I'm still just a confused wallflower with a lot of feelings I can't always sort out, but I'm getting there. And I'll always love this book and this story for helping me to get there. Thank you.