The American author and scriptwriter, Stephen Chbosky’s 1999 novel released on 1st February is a journey through the uncharted territory of high school. Published by “Pocket Books”, it was released first in Hardcover and then in paperback with a light green background and a poster of the same film imprinted on it. The fiction, coming of age epistolary novel has a plain ad blunt diction featuring the adolescent American culture. The book speaks much more than a personal diary.
Being rated as “New York Times Bestseller”, the novel describes the teenage experimentation with drugs and alcohol, friendship, suicide, body images, obscure jokes, frustrations, turmoil during illegal pregnancy, sexuality and molestations.
The protagonist and narrator, Charlie, writes letters to an anonymous recipient, and his epistolary form helps to converse and connect deeply with the targeted readers. The novel is philosophical and stark, pointing out grave relations of society; comic and sarcastic but yet sympathetic, describing the life of ‘a wallflower’.
Charlie, in the course of his life has suffered two traumatic happenings- the death of his only friend Michael, and then his aunt in a car crash while en route to buying him his birthday present. His English teacher, Mr. Anderson meanwhile encourages him to cultivate his talent in writing. He tries to grope through the incident after finding two real mates- Sam and Patrick. The gay relationship between Patrick and Brad, his classmates has also been emphasised. Charlie falls in love with Sam and develops an inexplicable sexual attraction towards her, but he is unable to express his feelings. Charlie engages himself in a desultory relationship with Mary Elizabeth, but still admits that Sam happens to be the prettiest girl in his life. Terrifying consequences follow when he indulges in frequent consumption and intakes of LSD to overcome his nervousness and is taken to the hospital after being discovered in a catatonic stage. Once recovered, he is taken to an adventure ride on Sam’s pickup truck where he devours happiness and announces the epic line “I FEEL INFINITE”.
The novel in a nutshell pens down some common yet suppressed problem faced by teenagers. It acquaints us with the American popular culture. Though it lacks in paucity and appropriateness in plotting, it is a must read for the depressed and frustrated adolescents to revive the fervour of life in them.