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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/product_reviews/pr_id/114809
ASIN: 1982110996
ID #114809
  (Rated: 18+)
Product Type: Book
Reviewer: Joywitch and her black cat
Review Rated: 18+
Amazon's Price: $ 17.39
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Summary of this Book...
I read this book on a recommendation, picking it up from a list of coming-of-age books. While Stephen Chbosky is no Salinger, as the tone of the novel is reminiscent of Catcher in the Rye, we have to give some leeway to all authors who try to emulate or outdo what was done before them. Yet, Chbosky is to be applauded for tackling a few taboo subjects in this novel.

The novel is written in the epistolary style, which is made up of letters to an unknown person, addressed as “Dear Friend,” with each letter ending in, “Love always.” Not only the protagonist Charlie does not want the readers to know who that person is but also, he doesn’t want the “dear friend” to know who Charlie is, and he goes through great lengths to hide this knowledge. I am assuming this trick also helps the author to get away with a few things.

Charlie tells upfront to his “dear friend” that he is both sad and happy at the same time, and that he had two tragedies in his life. The first one was that his friend Michael had just died of suicide and the second one was his Aunt Helen’s passing after a car accident. He frequently repeats throughout the book how his aunt Helen was so good and important to Charlie. From the way he talks, the reader gathers that, as smart and observant Charlie is, there is something lurking behind his words that signals a serious hurt deep down.

As I read the book, I looked to see if any of his family members could be the culprit, but to no avail. Charlie comes from a middle-class family with a good to average parents, an older brother who moves away to college in the beginning of the novel, and a sister who is also going through her own kind of growing-up troubles. So there had to be something more to Charlie’s out-of-the-ordinary being.

As to Charlie’s quirks, he cries very easily and cannot stop, does not actively participate in life or in teen things that most young people do, and talks in a way that sounds weird to other people, as he asks questions that are unnecessary and even uncalled for. In about the beginning to the middle of the book, he has a couple of mental breakdowns and he begins talking to a psychologist, who Charlie thinks is pushing the wrong line of questioning.
What really is behind Charlie’s emotional pain doesn’t come out until the end of the book when he passes out and has to be hospitalized for two months. The ending is a real twist, one totally unexpected, and I guess that caused the popularity of the novel.

The time frame of the story is from when the shy, introverted Charlie is about to start High School to about a year before he graduates. In fact, he mentions his fears of high school and what’s ahead of him in his first letter. During the first year in High school, although he leads a life on the fringes, Charlie somehow manages to make friends with Sam and Patrick, who are a few years ahead of him. Sam is Patrick’s stepsister, and their relationship with Charlie is a very sweet one. Charlie has a crush on Sam, although he says this is real love because he wants Sam to be happy with whoever she chooses. Yet, toward the end of the book, when the opportunity to be with Sam arises, Charlie doesn’t take it, which eventually leads to the surprise ending. During the time when Charlie is friends with Patrick and Sam, he kind of dates Mary Elizabeth, Sam’s friend, but when things don’t go well with her, Charlie is pushed away from the friends’ group. Some time later, he is accepted back in when he defends Patrick in a physical fight.

Through this entire novel, I thought that Charlie’s real friend was his English teacher, who during his first year of teaching, saw the pain and the capability inside Charlie and tried to help him by giving him books to read, books that could elevate his understanding of life.

Charlie also has a good relationship with his own siblings. They are, on the surface, like all siblings, but throughout the flow of the novel, I got the impression that they really cared about one another, as his brother taught Charlie how to win a physical fight, and his sister cared about him a lot and came to him for help when she needed help with an abortion while she was in an abusive relationship.

Charlie works hard in school and gets good grades and hopes to become the valedictorian when the time comes to graduate, as Sam, Patrick, and Charlie’s sister graduate at the end of the year and each go to a college of their choice.

I can see why this book was banned from some high schools, since it mentions teen fallibilities like drinking, smoking, drugs, abusive sexual relationships.


From here on, do not read if you don’t want to know the ending.




From the two months Charlie is in the hospital, we learn that he was molested by his Aunt Helen, and he had repressed that memory. Since the psychonalytical approach is to bring to surface repressed harmful memories, so the patient can be helped, alongside Charlie we have to assume that he’ll continue his life in a more upbeat, normal fashion.

This type of Book is good for...
Readers who still recall their teenage years.
The author of this Book...
is Stephen Chbosky, novelist, screenwriter, and film director, who published the novel in 1999 and its later movie adaptation in 2012.
I recommend this Book because...
You may like it if you are not too old and are aware of the problems teens go through during the later three or four decades. It is well written, although now and then, it felt as if the story was going around and around without a purpose, but this was only my feeling, and the book is a good one.
Created Sep 04, 2021 at 1:27pm • Submit your own review...

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