Welcome to my new blog feature in which I'll chat a bit about books I read long ago. There are so many memorable books I read before I started documenting them all here, and this will give me an opportunity to finally tell you about them. Maybe I'll even unearth old posts about books I wrote about in the early days of my blog that I want to remind you about.
The protagonist is Charlie, a high school boy who is recovering from a very rough time and trying to get himself off the sidelines and back into living his life. His English teacher keeps urging him to "participate" and he makes concentrated efforts to do so. He develops friendships with Patrick and Samantha (who he has a huge crush on) and they listen to the Smiths and go to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. As Charlie becomes more involved with his friends he is eventually forced to confront the difficult feelings he has been hiding from.
Structured as a series of letters to an anonymous friend, Charlie's voice is what makes this novel special. He is naive and awkward and earnest, and his best qualities are also his faults. For instance, he starts dating a perfectly nice girl but totally screws it up because he likes Sam more and can't help but be honest about that. Reading this book I felt like I really got to know Charlie, and when he talks about driving around with Sam and Patrick listening to music, and how in these moments he feels infinite, it is easy to completely understand what he means.
This is one of the first teen books I read that tackled serious issues without being an "issues" book, and it has really stuck with me. I read it in my 20s after a period in which I went to see Rocky Horror a lot myself, and used to hang out with people in the show, so that part of it was very familiar and relatable. I think anyone who remembers being a teenager and trying to fit in would find something in this book that resonates.
I've heard that the movie was really good, but I have been unable to watch it for fear that it will break the spell. Plus I saw the trailer and that is not how Patrick looked in my head and I cannot get past it. However, there is really no need to see the movie as the book will always be wonderful and I can just read my copy again.
What is the first YA book that really resonated with you? Are there books that you read over and over?