Monday, July 25, 2011


Teen Angst, 90s Style

What do I think about The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky? Hm. The reason I gave my copy away without reading it was that I didn’t want to go to the place where The Catcher in the Rye and A Separate Peace (books this one was being compared to) and, I suspected, Go Ask Alice and Ghost World (thanks, Tara) and all those other teen angsty novels live. It’s a place I never lived, but am repeatedly told is real and genuine. (In this particular novel, parts of it strongly resembled Say Anything.) Obviously, a lot of teens both now and when I was a teen take them to heart. For me, the problem is that they are written by adults who have since achieved some clarity. So the teens in them seem to me as real as teens in most Hollywood movies about teens (see previous comment RE: Say Anything): all the actors are actually in their twenties. (I think this is what made “Freaks and Geeks” different. The high school cafeteria was a room with chairs and tables in it. The little gang of three Grade 9s looked like overgrown children. The characters seemed to be stumbling around looking for something, while simultaneously trying to separate the wheat from the chaff in their lives.)

In different decades, the bus driving through this territory has different stops: this one was sexual molestation. It was interesting that one of the former stops—drinking and drugs—in this and other such books seems now just part of the ride. This is progress, in that the characters (read: today’s young people) understand that misuse of these substances (i.e., getting wasted for its own sake rather than in the context of friends and enjoyment) is a symptom and not the disease. Characters deal with their business and then get back on the wagon, relatively speaking. I think sexual molestation may become part of the ride in the novels of tomorrow: from all the talk I hear amongst the teens in my house about pervs and inappropriateness, and considering the ending of Wallflower, the culture may learn to deal and move on. Does this kind of progress make you feel sad?

One touching difference in Wallflower was the narrating character’s love for his family, and their love for him. That is definite progress, and I feel, writing this, a huge gratitude to Stephen C. for unlocking the handcuffs and setting us free from the Boomer mythology of generational divides. On a different plane, in a different vein, Edeet Ravel did the same in her Pauline books (which I recommend, BTW: first one is The Mysterious Adventures of Pauline Bovary). To these authors I am truly thankful.

I'm now quite interested to read Wallflower, especially since you referenced Say Anything, which is one of my all-time favourite movies.

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