Dear Hollywood: Please don’t ruin my favorite YA books (vol. 1)

So, right now, at this very moment, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, one of my favorite books of all time, is being made into a movie.

I, for one, am pretty stoked about this. The Perks of Being a Wallflower has been one of my favorite books since I was 17. As I mentioned in a previous post (or maybe it was in a cover letter to work in a YA area for Simon & Schuster), this book found its way into my life at exactly the right moment. It’s written in a letter format, and is about an overly sensitive boy named Charlie who is navigating his freshman year of high school in the early ’90s. He doesn’t have friends, but makes them along the way. He and his friends deal with a lot of very Heavy Topics, including suicide, homosexuality, rape, drugs, abortion, underage drinking, physical abuse, trying to fit in, and the Rocky Horror Picture Show (there’s another Heavy Topic they deal with, but it would ruin the ending if I told you). But it’s not even the array of controversial topics that makes this book so fascinating (and totally banned from a lot of schools). It’s Charlie. He’s very naive, smart, and reading this book just makes you want to give him a hug and tell him it’ll be okay.

I’ve probably read this book at least 20 times. I have parts of it memorized. My junior and senior year of high school, my group of friends had several copies floating around, because we had to make sure that all of us read it. In the book, Charlie makes a lot of mix tapes, and he actually lists out the songs to one of them. One of my friends downloaded all of the songs and made CDs for all of us. I still listen to it fairly regularly. I’m on my second copy of the book, and it’s completely tattered and worn. Apparently there’s been a reprint with a different cover, but I have the original bright lime green one.

An excerpt from the first two paragraphs of the book:

“Dear Friend,

I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn’t try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have. Please don’t try to figure out who she is, because then you might try to figure out who I am, and I really don’t want you to do that. I will call people by generic names because I don’t want you to find me. I didn’t enclose a return address for the same reason. I mean nothing bad by this. Honest.

I just need to know that someone out there listens and understands and doesn’t try to sleep with people even if they could have. I need to know that these people exist.”

The rest of the book is in a similar tone, and for a teenager who fits this description and is feeling lonely… this book is amazing.

So, they’re making a movie of it. Even though they’re already filming it this month, the full cast list hasn’t been announced. We know that Emma Watson is playing Sam, the girl who Charlie is in love with, and that Paul Rudd is playing Charlie’s cool teacher/friend, Bill. Here’s the rest of the cast list so far. I’m glad that Charlie is going to be played by a much less known actor, because I don’t know that anyone else would be able to pull it off. I think Emma Watson will be amazing as Sam, and it’ll be interesting to see Paul Rudd in a more serious role.

The movie’s being directed and written by Stephen Chbosky, who wrote the book. That’s a HUGE relief for me. Mainly because- well, he’s not going to eff it up. It’s HIS story. He’s heard all of the reader response to it, and he knows how much this book has meant to a lot of people. He wrote the screenplay for the movie adaptation of Rent, and because of that, I really trust his ability to adapt a well-loved story into film (without ruining it).

There are some parts of the book that I’m a little concerned about. The entire book is in letter form, but I don’t want to see an entire movie of voiceovers. I think it’ll translate well into a narrative, but with certain letters as voiceover.

The part I’m most hesitant about is the song that makes Charlie, Sam, and Patrick feel “infinite.” They’re driving to a party, and suddenly this “really amazing song about a boy” comes on the radio, and they all go completely silent and listen to it.  (I’m not doing any justice to this part of the book at all, but I’m not typing the whole excerpt- go read it. Page 32-33.) He doesn’t say what the song is because, “truthfully, it’s not the same, unless you’re driving to your first real party, and you’re sitting in the middle seat of a pickup with two nice people when it starts to rain.”

On some of the message boards I’ve read discussing it, there’s a lot of speculation about what song it is. A lot of people (including me, up until a few minutes ago), think it’s “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam. (I don’t think it’s Jeremy anymore because it was released a year after Charlie’s letter was written. #nerd).  But my point is- now we’ll know. There’s no way they’re not including that scene in the movie. And Charlie doesn’t want us to know, because it won’t mean the same to us as it did to him, Sam, and Patrick.

I just hope that whatever it is, they don’t include it in the preview (even though they probably will- I see it at the very end of the preview, “I feel infinite,” then BLACKOUT, title card. But I’m not a filmmaker or anything.). First off, that’ll only sell the movie for people who have read the book, and I think we all can agree that they’re already going to see the movie.  Second- no one sitting in the movie theatre will be in a pickup on their way to a party with their only two friends when it starts to rain. This scene better be done amazingly.

I don’t want this movie to be too popular/mainstream; I just want it to be good. I know that bringing it to the big screen will introduce the story to a lot of new people. And that could be a good thing. If this movie is presented as an indie film, I think the right people will see it, and the people who wouldn’t “get” it won’t even bother with it. This must be how hipsters feel about what it’s like when their bands become mainstream. I guess it’s a feeling of loving something so much, and not wanting it to change and be discovered by people who won’t appreciate it as much as you do.

That being said- I don’t know anyone who’s read this book and hated it. I’m really looking forward to the movie.

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4 Responses to Dear Hollywood: Please don’t ruin my favorite YA books (vol. 1)

  1. Seashell says:

    Now I need to find this book and read it.

  2. Pingback: Mom, Stop Talking to Strangers on the Subway | The Settlers Give it Passion

  3. Pingback: Dear Hollywood: Please don’t ruin my favorite YA books (vol. 2: Hunger Games Edition) – SPOILERS | The Settlers Give it Passion

  4. Pingback: You thought he was gone. But now he’s come back again. Last week it was funny, but now the joke’s wearing thin. | The Settlers Give it Passion

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