Eclectic Reader Challenge – New Adult – The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

I bought this book when the movie came out with the intention of reading the book and then seeing the movie. In the end, I did neither. It has been on my to-read list since then. So it seemed perfecphoto-14t for the Eclectic Reader Challenge category of New Adult.

The book is series of letters to an unnamed person addressed simply as friend. They detail the ups and downs of Charlie’s life as he starts High School describing events and people with a warmth and naivety that was mostly charming. He is shy, awkward and has little grasp of social etiquette. He is befriended by a group of older misfits and through them goes to parties, takes drugs and learns about sex and relationships. While his voice was convincing, I think that I’d have enjoyed it more if I was nearer his age. I found myself feeling a little impatient with him, the way adults do with teenagers but for the most part I was keen to read on and find out what happened to him.

It is apparent quite early on that Charlie has psychological issues relating to the death of his Aunt Helen and he swings between depression and optimism throughout the book. Details are gradually revealed giving the reader clues to what the issues may be. However, the final reveal – I won’t give it away for those who have not read it – felt a little underwhelming. Not that it wasn’t a serious issue – it certainly justified Charlie’s issues – but that it wasn’t explored very deeply, was almost brushed off with an ease that seemed unlikely.

This book is often compared to The Catcher in the Rye and, in some ways, it is an apt comparison. Both Holden and Charlie are caught in cycles of behaviour that they seemed destined to repeat and both have distinctive voices. However, ultimately I prefer The Catcher in the Rye because it is darker and less twee. I found the end of The Catcher in the Rye devastating as so little progress has been made in Holden’s journey of discovery. I don’t know why but I find this easier to relate to then the sweet optimism of Charlie’s last letter.

Eclectic Reading Challenge – New Adult – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I’d not heard of the New Adult genre before I signed up to do the Eclectic Reader Challenge – although I suspect that it means books for teenagers that adults would like to read – but I looked it up on Goodreads and The Hunger Games was one of the first books I noticed and I’d been meaning to read it for a while.

I really enjoyed this book. It had everything really – action, strong characters, a serious point to make and it was exciting enough to keep you turning the pages. In fact, I could not put it down. IMG_0030

The character of Katniss and her relationship with fellow tribute, Peeta was compelling and I think teenagers particularly would be drawn into their potential romance. I do think this is clearly aimed at a teenage audience but that didn’t stop it from being an excellent read.

The idea of the hunger games is completely apt and believable. I could imagine Channel Four commissioning it. And people would watch it and vote for different ways for the contestants to die without a seconds thought. Well, hopefully not but it certainly wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility. And to me, that is the definition of what good science fiction should do – take some aspect of the current reality and magnify it, show what would happen if we took it to its logical extreme.

If I had to make a complaint about this book, I would say that I thought some of the plotting was a little heavy handed – for example the changes to the games rules annoyed me a little. But this in no way spoiled my enjoyment of this book. And while I haven’t rushed to the shop to buy the next one, I know I will read it. Perhaps when I’ve got through a few more of my to read list.