I am normally incensed when original book covers are replaced by glossy movie star images, (The Great Gatsby with Leonardo will give me the shakes) but this time, I don't mind. Probably because Stephen Chobsy, a respected filmmaker, adapted his novel for the screen and directed the film. The characters are flawlessly brought to life by Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller, whose faces grace the new book cover.
The soundtrack of pop songs matches the spirit of the 90s and the Come on Eileen dance number, where Charlie looks on from his wallflower perch is pitch perfect. The Rocky Horror Picture Show scenes were filmed at The Hollywood Theater in Dorman, Pennsylvania where Chobsky, himself, saw the movie as a teenager.
So, watching the movie last night with three grown kids who bonded in high school and have stayed close for six years since made the movie even better for me. They talked about how awkward high school is for everyone. It is a marathon run through a dense fog of hormones, relationships and power plays. The kids who seem best at it are sometimes the least prepared for the challenges of the real world, and the wall flowers are often the ones who turn up at 10 and 15 year reunions and shock everyone with their totally together lives. The best anyone can hope for in high school is a few true friends who will buoy you up when you are down and fly with you when you are soaring.
My son talked about being a freshman in marching band. Some senior boys took him under their wings and convinced him to play the tuba his sophomore year (Ben, Jeff, Tim and Tres - wherever you are - I still thank you.) They were smart, funny, older boys from my AP English class who turned drudgery into fun. They helped him transition into other new friendships. Sophomore year he started hanging out with the two guys we watched the movie with. They buoyed each other up when they were down and still fly around together. They all read the book at various points of high school. They each still have the book today.
We decided the movie is The Breakfast Club for a new generation of kids. I would have watched it again as soon as it ended. And I admit to having a few tears in my eyes. The classic quote is as true for adults as it is for teens -
This is my first year as a retired English teacher. I have read a few books in the last year I would love to wave in the faces of my students. I miss sharing books with kids. I probably bought a half dozen copies of The Perks of Being a Wallflower in the years since 1999. I probably loaned them all out and never got them back. I can't find a single one in the house today and I miss seeing that book on the shelf. I miss the classroom when I recall that as a teacher, I had the power to be a life-changer. I got to hand a kid a book.