I enjoyed this book and it was written as an interesting and realistic view of a student as he goes through his first year of high school. The book had a neat style in that the entire book is written as a series of personal letters from the main character, Charlie, to an acquaintance who was never identified and Charlie said several times that they met once but the person doesn’t know him. Charlie also tried not to give too many names or details to let this person identify who he is.
As many are/were, Charlie was pretty nervous about entering high school. The previous year, his best friend Michael committed suicide and it was hard on Charlie, as one could imagine. Charlie is a very quiet young man with few friends, so he was elated to meet Sam and Patrick (step brother/sister) and be welcomed into their group. Apart from driving around and hanging out at the Big Boy parking lot, the group were fans of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and watched/acted it out every Saturday in a theater.
Charlie’s English teacher, Bill, quickly noticed Charlie was an avid reader who needed more than the established class curriculum, so he gave Charlie books on the side to read and write essays about. I liked reading about the books he read and remembering about when I read them, or putting some on my list to read. He always said his favorite book was the last one he read. In the beginning of the book, Bill made an integral suggestion that Charlie participate more in life and that really drove Charlie to do more in his freshman year. Bill and Charlie became friends and had occasional life conversations. Bill was a great positive role model for Charlie and as a teacher myself, it was nice to see him take him under his wing and be more than just a teacher to him.
Sam was Charlie’s crush (Emma Watson in the film), but through most of the book she was dating Craig, a college guy who Charlie felt didn’t appreciate her as much as she should be appreciated. Charlie was resigned to the fact that Sam was more of a friend and he couldn’t take the chance in pursuing her and losing one of the dear friends he met. By the end of the book, Charlie had his chance and Sam made some important points that Charlie needs to be more decisive and make his interest, wants, and needs known to those around him. Again, the participation he needed to work on.
As the book went on, Charlie had minor panic attacks and talked about his experience with psychologists. Soon, he was seeing one again and sometimes the questions and conversations made him uncomfortable. I hate giving away too much but Charlie had an experience as a young child which was repressed and kept him always thinking and worrying. By the end of the book, much of this was overwhelming.
There were a lot of great parts in this book. Many were of Charlies observations with the world. He liked seeing old photographs and thinking about what people were like at the time of the photo, which I do as well. In one part he was talking about ‘glory days’ and how he found a newspaper clipping of his dad when he hit a home run to win a baseball game. He wondered what his glory days would be like and if he was already in them. He thought about the fact that every guy he sees that scores a touchdown or hits a home run will be a dad someday telling his kids about that time. The children will see old yearbook photos and think about how their dad was rugged and handsome and happier than they are. Charlie said he hopes he remembers to tell his kids someday that they are as happy has he looks in the old photographs. Things like this reminded me of myself growing up. Watching people and wondering where they were going, what their own life was like, what my own children will be like, how people change, how certain experiences can change courses of one’s life.
One part of the book had Sam crawling into the back of the truck as they drove through a tunnel. As Charlie talked to Sam and Patrick he said ‘We are infinite’. That was the tagline of the movie posters. Charlie really loved the feeling he had with the pair and occasionally longed to be infinite again.
- In the back of the book there was a clip about the group http://www.moreloveletters.com. It’s a group which asks for people to write love letters to strangers in need of a positive word or encouragement. I thought that was a neat idea and tied in well to the book, check it out if you have a chance.