Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Perks of having a hanky nearby

One of the perks of raising kids who love to read is that they find really interesting books to read that may not ever come on to your radar.

This has been the case in the last several books I have read.

When the kids were very little we would read to them.  Then they got to the point where they wanted to read along and soon they were reading to us.

This last year my daughter asked me to read The Fault in our Stars by John Green and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.  They are both "teen" novels and so I didn't really expect very much out of them other than a fun fast read.

This task was put off for a long time but finally on a very long flight to Amsterdam I found that my daughter had loaded the eBook "The Fault in our Stars", using my iTunes account, onto the iPad.  So, there I was on this long flight by myself, quietly sobbing as I flipped through page after page, finishing the book just about the time we were landing in Amsterdam.  A great deal of the book takes place in Amsterdam making the story come to life even more because as I walked down the streets later that day I realized that I had already seen these streets on the pages in the book I had just finished.   It was one of those books that really swept me along into the story with the characters.  Every scene, every conversation, every description was so well articulated that I felt as though I were watching this story unfold instead of just reading along.

This week The Perks of Being a Wallflower is coming out on DVD and BluRay.  If you have teenagers you really should buy this movie and watch it together.  If you ever were a teenager you should really buy this movie and watch it.  There are no explosions, no gratuitous violence or sex scenes.  There is very little swearing (I can't really remember any swearing).  There are some scenes of teenagers drinking and a couple of scenes that involved drugs.  It was not glamorized or made light of.

My daughter saw the movie first with her friends and then we saw it together.  She told me that she didn't want to build the movie up too much because then I might not like it but she felt that it was a fantastic movie and that I would probably like it.  I expected a Say Anything kind of romantic teenager themed movie that I was used to from the 80's, Breakfast Club, 16 Candles, something like that.  But shortly after the credits had finished and the first scene started to unfold my eyes began to fill up with tears a bit.  I wasn't sobbing.  The movie never went into any full on cliche of any situation that would pull on your heart strings.  It was a very real depiction of a group of kids with some seriously messed up stuff they had to deal with and the secrets they kept that allowed them to get through their daily routine as high school students.  One of the great lines in the book, and the movie, is that we accept the love we think we deserve.  And in the end, to me, it seemed like the message was how the destructiveness of some secrets could only be overcome by the power of love and being true to ourselves.  Accepting the Love we deserve instead of the love we think we deserve.

As the final credits rolled I realized that I had spent the good part of the movie with tears in my eyes.  But it wasn't tragic in the Shakespearean sense because in the end there was a sense that these kids had been able to deal with the secrets of their past that were holding them back and it ended (spoiler alert) in a super scooby happy ending. Sort of.

It is hard to believe that this book was written in 1999 and is only now coming out on DVD.  It was a beautifully written story that deals with some very tough issues and is equally well told on screen.

Give your kids the love of reading - it will surprise you what they give back to you. And make sure to have a hanky nearby.

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