I am not usually one to like the “coming of age” novels. In fact, when I see that phrase, I usually cringe and put the book back on the shelf. Something about this book compelled me to check it out from the library, and I can say that I am glad I did. In a sort of nebulous, not really sure what hit me sort of way.
What sets this book apart from other stories of its kind is how it is written – a series of letters written from the perspective Charlie, a 15 year old boy in his first year of high school. He’s dealing with a major loss, and he’s a very sensitive kid, who isn’t afraid (or rather doesn’t know how to not) to show his feelings. And he feels things deeply, in a way that most adults, let alone kids in high school, can relate to.
We aren’t introduced to the recipient of the letters, and Charlie himself doesn’t know this person, but we don’t need to know him. Its essentially a diary, but he makes the distinction that it is more than a diary, because these letters will be read for sure, whereas a diary can only “be found”. Which makes Charlie’s candor about his life – family, friends, lack of friends, problems, etc. – even more real.
He goes through a lot in his first year of high school, and yes, don’t we all? But as his English teacher who gives him extra books to read all year long tells him at the end, Charlie is more gifted than anyone he knows. Which is what makes the ending so heart-wrenching.
Seriously, I’m not a crier, and I almost cried when I finished this book. It will pull at those old heartstrings, no matter how deeply buried they are.