The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The Perks of Being a Wallflowerfocuses on a 15-year-old boy called Charlie, telling the story of his freshman year of high school. The book is told through letters written by Charlie to an anonymous friend. Charlie writes to this friend about his family problems, friendships and relationships. Over the course of his year, Charlie befriends a group of drug-taking, Rocky-Horror-performing older teenagers, falls in love and has to cope with repressed memories and eventual mental illness.
I found this book to be a very interesting and enjoyable read. Charlie is quite an unusual character; the 'wallflower' of the book, someone who observes the lives of the people around him instead of playing an active part in them. As the novel progresses, however, we see a gradual change come over Charlie - he makes friends, becomes involved in theatre and finds happiness for a while in the form of his first girlfriend Mary Elizabeth and his best friends Sam and Patrick. Charlie is a 'gifted' teenager who has a lot of problems in his life and it was very interesting to see life from his perspective. At the beginning of the book I found him to be a little immature and annoying but I soon warmed to his unusual way of thinking.
This is a very character-driven book which some people might find a little tedious. It is often compared to 'The Catcher in the Rye' by JD Salinger, a book from which Stephen Chbosky took inspiration. It took a while for me to get into this book but in the end I really enjoyed it. I would recommend this book to teenagers from the age of 14 up.
Skippy Dies by Paul Murray
This is a book that has found great popularity since it was longlisted for the Booker prize last year. It is a comedic novel with the fictional 'grand old Dublin institution' of Seabrook College at its centre. It is told from a number of different points of view, the main ones being that of troubled fourteenyear-old Daniel 'Skippy' Juster, and that of young history teacher Howard 'The Coward' Fallon. The story spans over a three-or four-month period in the lives of those at Seabrook and charts their misadventures, from the ridiculous experiments of young scientific prodigy Ruprecht van Doren to the blossoming romance between Skippy and Lori, a student at the neighbouring girls' school.
After a very funny, unusual prologue the book is an easy and enjoyable read for the first two hundred pages or so. The multiple narratives wind together cleverly and the stories of all the characters are fantastically told and very memorable. However, I thought that the book took a bit of a turn for the worse in Part 2. It became a little slower and more difficult to follow, and the narratives started to feel chaotic rather than neatly woven into each other. It did redeem itself towards the end, but overall I thought it was possibly too long and a bit of a slog to read.
I loved the use of language in this book. Paul Murray makes good use of a wide vocabulary and uses many unusual and unfamiliar words. The book was quite funny, with a number of memorable scenes, but I felt like the story reached its comedic peak too early in the book. I did enjoy it for the most part, but I thought it was a story which could have been told in far fewer than 672 pages. I would personally be slightly reluctant to recommend this book to anyone, but I think it can and has been enjoyed by many people.