What Are You Reading Now?
Announcing the inaugural #BCReadalong! THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky (8/18-31/13)
Happy Sunday, everybody!
One of the things we want to try with Book Country 2.0 is having a
“readalong” every couple of weeks. What we envision is not just a book
club (though I do love a good book club!), but rather reading a specific
book as a community, from a writer’s perspective.
So what does it mean to read a book as a writer?
means that we won’t just discuss what we like or don’t like about the
book (though that’s fair game, of course!). We’ll also talk about the
book as if the author was a Book Country member posting the manuscript
for feedback. We’ll analyze what works and what doesn’t work in terms of
structure, prose, dialogue, pacing, voice, and characterization. We can
also talk about how this book was published, and what went into making
it successful. Writing and publishing issues big and small will be up
for debate, and the more people who join in on the conversation, the
The book I chose for our first #BCReadalong is the seminal
Young Adult Contemporary novel THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by
Stephen Chbosky. (It’s one of our Landmark Titles on Book Country.) It’s
a great kickoff to the #BCReadalong because:
Here’s how the inaugural #BCReadalong will work:
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be reading THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER and chatting about it in a few places online :
On Friday, August 30th, I’ll post takeaway tips for writers of all genres based on our discussion of THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER.
A few final thoughts:
I am about to post my first discussion question below . . . Can’t wait to talk
about THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER with Book Country members!
To start us off with our #BCReadalong, I thought I'd ask a question which doesn't necessarily require having read THE PERKS OF A WALLFLOWER to answer:
THE PERKS OF A WALLFLOWER is a "novel in letters." The main character, Charlie, writes to a mysterious recipient he addresses simply as "Dear friend." So, really, it's more like a confessional, but because he's writing to a real person, he's perhaps a tiny bit more guarded then he would be in a diary.
In general, what do you think about using letters or correspondence as the structure for a story?
We've seen lots of popular books do this over the years, from Anne Frank's memoir THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL (who wrote the diary knowing others would read it, so again, that same feeling of writing a confessional that would have an audience), to THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL SOCIETY by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows, a historical novel of correspondence between a group of friends just after World War II.
What are the pros and cons of this strategy in creative writing?
How does this change the "point of telling" in your story? (Great explanation of "point of telling" is here, via Marc Schuster's blog.)
I'm very excited about this readalong. I haven't read Perks yet, but I'm downloading it now.
Yay, @Danielle!! Cannot wait to chat with you about it!!
BC members: Hope to discuss PERKS with some more folks soon. I finished the book yesterday morning and I am bursting at the seams to talk to other writers about how Chbosky did his thing on the page.
I am about sixty pages in and loving it so far.
The language of the book is deceptively simple, in a way that reminds me of John Green's writing style. The voice is by far the strongest aspect of the book for me; it's interesting to see how the narrator withholds information, and how the meaning is slowly unpacked, as if we access the character's head through a back door. It's incredibly intimate.
What I find intriguing about the epistolary style is the identity of the recipient of Charlie's letters, who's supposed to be older than him. I wonder if Charlie's writing to a future self or to a universal type of oblivious adult, who's become immune to the trials and tribulations of childhood.
--edited by Nevena Georgieva on 8/19/2013, 10:46 AM--
Throughout the entire novel, you get the sense that something is really, truly wrong with the protagonist. He's in a shaky mental state, and bursts into tears all the time. So something is wrong... But what?
The book is structured like a series of therapy sessions. Charlie talks about his day-to-day, circling around the real issue because he can't remember it. But the sessions--the process of writing it all out--has a therapeutic effect on him none the less. Sort of like a talking (writing) cure! In this case, the reader (ME AND YOU!) is the neutral therapist who's helping him through it. I guess the reason the recipient is nameless is so that the reader can insert himself or herself into the narrative and feel true empathy--become part of the book itself. For me, it's this interactivity that makes PERKS so powerful.
What do you guys think about the way Chbosky uses foreshadowing & unreliable narration in the book?
Nevena, Brandi, and I all read PERKS and put together some writing tips from it. Check them out here--they might be useful to you, and if you've read the book, chime into this thread!
Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend!
Book Country Community and Engagement Manager
I usually don't like a book told via epistolary format, because I don't feel immersed in the story. I haven't read Perks yet, so I can't judge that particular book. One of the books I read this summer-which isn't told through letters, but utilized journal entries here and there-was Christopher Moore's You Suck. When Abby Normal writes in her journal about events, we don't get to experience, her skewed outlook on life, I-want-to-be-a-ghetto-thug attitude, and adoration of her vampire lords makes the telling instead of showing much more entertaining. So, for me, it depends on how entertaining the narrator is. Nevena pointed out the strength of voice in Perks, which I think is imperative when writing in this format.
Thanks for the article on "Point of Telling" and your analysis of Perks! I look forward to reading it.
@Toni--yes, absolutely Re: depending on how compelling the narrator's voice is.
Did you like YOU SUCK? If so, I will check it out!