Perks Moment

I feel like everyone has their own Perks of Being a Wallflower moment. The moment they discovered the book and felt like it was written entirely for them. Well, with the release of the movie’s trailer, I was reminded of mine –

It was the summer of 2002 and I was working at Borders. I remember shelving the small books and being instantly intrigued by the minimal yellow cover. It was so cute. And the title was very…me. I had always felt like a wallflower. So I bought it and brought it home and read it.

And read it again. And again. And again.

It was the summer after my freshman year of college and while I was four years older than the protagonist, I knew how he felt. It was just so real. So I started reading it every year.

Now, there are two types of book owners I’ve realized: a) those who believe books are a work of art and prefer to keep them as pristine as possible and b) those who believe the more worn a book looks, the more loved it is. I subscribe to the second belief. My books are very loved.

So while reading, I started underlining my favorite sentences, passages, so I could easily go back to them. When I got back to college (I was home in Orlando during the summer; my school was in Tallahassee), I handed the book off to my good friends, instructing them to read it and underline their favorite passages. To me, the book felt like a letter I had to share, one that everyone made their own. I loved seeing the different underlined passages because while we all loved the I felt infinite moment, we each had different parts that spoke to us just as well. (My favorite line is the one underlined above. It’s simple, and perfect.)

In the process of handing it off so often, my copy started to wear down. Pages were lose, ripped. And then, one day, a friend spilled an oil candle on it. At first, I was upset; my book was ruined, gone, dead. But then, when the pages dried, I saw that there wasn’t any harm, really, and the only permanent damage was that it kind of smelled like cinnamon apple.

And I was okay with that.

Because every time I went into a Cracker Barrel I thought of Perks. Every time I went into one of those country, good-time shops, I thought of Perks. And I smiled.

Years later I taught high school english. On my first day, as a very scared 22 year old, I passed around surveys to my students to learn a bit more about them. Who was an athlete, who was a drama kid. The last question asked them what their favorite book was.

One student said Perks.

It wasn’t a Bill and Charlie moment; we didn’t become best friends or anything like that, but I was so happy to see that the book transcended generations. That the same book that spoke to me so many years prior still applied to teenagers today.

Which was when I realized that I could relate to these students. While I didn’t have a cell phone at their age, I did understand what it was like to be a wallflower.

And I think that’s the most important part of the book. It makes you feel understood, and connected to a larger group of people you might not have known otherwise. Good books can do that.

And this one certainly did.

Have you read The Perks of Being a Wallflower? What’s your story? What’s your favorite line? 

13 thoughts on “Perks Moment

  1. hannahkarena says:

    I had never read or even heard of the book before. But as a freshman in college, circa 2007, my roommate was IN LOVE with the book and insisted I read it immediately. She pulled out a copy that was so well-read, well-loved, marked and underlined, that the paperback spine had split, there were separate chunks, and a handful of pages were loose leaf. She kept the book bound together with a few rubber bands. I remember kind of looking at it in horror and suggesting we get a new copy and retire the thing. “No,” she had said. “This is the only copy I ever want to read. This is the copy I read for the first time. I’m keeping it forever.”

    She since got a tattoo of the infinite quote.

    There’s something about Perks that garners that kind of love.

  2. fgagliardi99 says:

    I’ve been going back & forth trying to decide if I should read this book. You’ve convinced me! And I’m the second type of book owner too. Love it when they’re worn in!

  3. oneterabyte says:

    I like the story of how you have read it as a teenager then you became a teacher then it is now the next generation’s turn to read the book. 🙂 I am more convinced to start reading it. 🙂

  4. stealthnerd says:

    I’ve never read the book, but I think I need to finally do it! And I feel the same way that you do about books. I like them to look read. Granted, I have some that I like to keep in pristine condition but for the most part, I want people to be able to look at my bookshelves and instantly know what my favorites are. That’s why I was so hesitant to get on board with e-readers–how could I underline and dogear with an e-reader?!

    • Lauren says:

      Read it! And then let me know what you think. 🙂 Also, there are books I like to keep in perfect condition too. The fancy ones, the older ones. Those I keep nice. And while I get e-readers, and see why people love them…I’m like you. I like underlining and dog-earing and seeing my books on a shelf. I like holding them.

  5. sparklypie says:

    I read the book three months ago, and as I read it I found so many memorable quotes, like you.
    Since it was an already worn-out library book, I would dog-ear the pages with interesting quotes on them (like the previous commenter). After I had to return the book, I got a copy of my own. With this copy, I was kind of like the ‘first type’ of book owner you mentioned… after a few months, it still looks perfect and brand new because I can’t bear to do anything to it.
    I’ve read it about three times since, and every time I read it I figure out something new. It’s the kind of book that, no matter what kind of person you are, you can relate to in some way. There are so many different characters with different personalities, but they all seem to fit together well for the story.

    It’s really a great book. Thanks for sharing!

    • Lauren says:

      Yes! Every time I’ve read it, I’ve found something new. And I love that about the book – about any book, really, that offers new views from repeated readings. It’s really great.

  6. ktharding says:

    nice going getting all these people to read it for the first time, lau! i hope they come to love it as much as we do 🙂

    “So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”

    and, of course, “We accept the love we think we deserve.”

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