Written as an intimate diary in letter form to an unknown addressee, this novel chronicles the first year in High School of Charlie. Charlie has a tendency to be rather passive, introspective, and prone to burst into tears; well – his best friend has recently committed suicide! Though quiet, Charlie is clever which is recognised by Bill, his English teacher who chooses books for him to read, and encourages him to ‘participate’. There’s something in Charlie that’s very likeable and he gets adopted by step-sibling seniors Patrick and Sam(antha), who show him what life is really about.
All the issues surrounding school, growing up and family drama that you can think of are here, from first dates to date-rape, making friends to teen pregnancy, school gangs to masturbation, raging hormones mixed with a good dose of sex, drugs and rock’n'roll – but all are seen through the unique filter of Charlie’s eyes and mind. He doesn’t always understand at first, but Charlie cares about everything – so much so that he finds it very hard to let go. When he does his honesty can be overpowering, but luckily Sam and Patrick are nearly always there for him. Then the year ends and he realises that he’s on his own, all his senior friends are going off to college …
I initially picked up this book because of the funky cover. Although it appears to be aimed at young adults, I really enjoyed reading it despite being all grown-up – in fact it’s a great book for adults too. You can’t help loving Charlie, and you live all his ups and downs with him. His insights into being a teenager are heartwarming, poignant yet often naive and when he does have an epiphany of sorts, you can’t help but cross your fingers and cheer for him.
My first five star read of 2009. A lovely book.