"We were infinite." That's a good description of those times when you are with friends and everything just seems to click on a level you seldom get to experience. For Charlie those times are with his friends Sam and Patrick. Being a socially awkward, although intelligent kid, freshman year is difficult for Charlie. But then he meets Patrick in shop class and enjoys his sense of humor. From there he meets Sam, Mary Alice, Craig, and all of their group. Even though Patrick and Sam are seniors, they take Charlie into their crowd and he begins to experience the fun of high school life - football games, parties, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," etc.
Many people have compared this story to "The Breakfast Club," and I can see why. You have the group of distinctive personalities, the mix of funny and dramatic moments, and times when the events are "demented and sad, but social."Perks is told through letters that Charlie writes to an unnamed friend in which he relates his experiences, thoughts, and feelings. He is bright and articulate, has fun working in vocabulary words from his English class, and is completely honest about what happens and his reactions. As the book progresses, readers come to see that Charlie is not just awkward, but actually has some sort of mental or emotional problem. He becomes anxious about things to the point of being obsessive. He refers back to a time when he was hospitalized. He has a doctor that he visits and talks with about the present and his childhood. As readers watch him throughout his freshman year, more hints and details come out.
The circular framework of the story (both beginning and ending just as a new school year starts), gives it a sense of closure. The characters are well developed with good and bad traits. The relationships are realistic (cheating boyfriends, jealousy, loyalty). And it deals with issues that are relevant - abusive relationships, family dynamics, depression, drug and alcohol use, sexual orientation, dating, social norms and acceptance. A great read for book groups or class discussions. The author wrote the screenplay for the movie adaptation, so it will be truer to the book than many films based on books.
Caution: This book is for young adults. There are descriptions of sexual activities, characters use drugs and alcohol, and there is swearing (including the f-bomb).