This is an epistolary novel, comprised of letters written by Charlie to an anonymous friend. The letters detail Charlie’s coming-of-age story as he makes the leap from middle to high school, deals with the suicide of one of his only friends, experiences his first encounters with girls and drugs, depression and anxiety, and learns some hard truths about his family history.
I think this book is considered to be a cult classic of sorts, and I can see why. There’s a timeless quality to it, and I think readers of this book now could probably relate to it just as well as those who read it when it first came out in 1999. Being far past my teenage years myself, I found myself feeling a certain nostalgia for my adolescence, even though I never experienced a lot of the things that Charlie did.
What I liked
Charlie. Especially throughout the first half of the book, I just found him to be so endearing. I wanted to be his friend when he didn’t have any others. I wanted to talk with him about all of the books he read and the songs he listened to. I felt a lot like Charlie at certain points in my high school career, like I was an outsider, sort of observing but not so much participating.
What I didn’t like
Without giving anything away, Charlie has a revelation at the very end of the book that I found to be somewhat gratuitous. It sort of changed my opinion of the rest of the book, and not in a good way.
Would I recommend it?
Yes. If you enjoy realistic, coming-of-age tales, I think it’s worth a read.