This is one of those books that comes on soft like a feather but as you flip through the pages it starts to carry the weight of a sledgehammer.
Charlie is someone who'd rather avoid contact with other humans in his school. He walks home instead of taking the bus, he doesn't know how to interact with girls or jocks or any of the other cliched crap that gets thrown at you when you're sixteen.
Worst of all, he's about to start high school, and the dread of that new beginning hangs over his head like a black zeppelin filled with manure.
The story itself is written in a series of letters from Charlie to an anonymous person he simply calls "friend." Through these letters we slowly begin to learn about Charlie's life, how he really likes one of his teachers, a guy named Bill that gives him extra reading. Charlie writes essays about these books and gives them to Bill to read because Charlie would like to be a writer, it's the one thing he knows he is good at.
Other than that, we don't know very much about him. We know that his best friend committed suicide and that Charlie gets angry, very angry, and has trouble breathing and even passes out when things get too rough. There is, however, a much darker reason for the mental problems that he is suffering from.
Eventually, Charlie meets people of his own ilk, a guy named Patrick, who is gay and introduces Charlie to cool music, parties and drugs. He also meets Sam, Patrick's stepsister, and immediately falls in love with her. It is his love for both Sam and Patrick that propels Charlie through his remarkable journey. With them he learns that it doesn't matter that he's not popular, that all of that is just an illusion created by people and that people are flawed and that it's okay to be flawed. Through Sam and Patrick's trials and tribulations, Charlie also learns what it means to have real friends.
I loved this book. I couldn't believe it took me so long to read it. It brought back memories of high school for me that were vivid, funny and sad. I wished this book had existed when I was a teenager because it would've been one that laid curled up, half-bent and ragged in my jacket pocket everywhere I went. As a librarian I feel it's my responsibility to get this into as many hands as possible, couldn't get enough of it.