By Rupini Alla
Cristine came to BHS in January, but she has been reading the book since she started high school in Missouri, where she and a friend had a contest going to see who could read it more times in a month.
“It started off as a race but then I just couldn’t stop reading it,” Marsala said.
The story is about a boy named Charlie who writes letters to an anonymous person about his life. He starts off his story when he is a little boy and writes the letters as things happen in his life.
“I like the fact that it’s really close to being a trashy romance, but then again it’s set in an adolescent point of view,” Marsala said. “Basically I could connect with this book more than any other book I have ever read in my whole life.”
The book is 213 pages, but Cristine experiences the same thrill reading it today as she did the first time she set eyes on it freshman year.
“I notice new meanings in the same things that I have read,” she said. Things that she thought she had understood the first time have changed as the years go by. She interprets some of the meanings of the book differently.
“To me the book is inspirational. Almost everything that goes on in the book has happened to me – not detail-for-detail, but when I read the book I feel like I can take myself in a different direction than Charlie actually did,” Marsala said.
Inspiration is just one reason for re-reading a favorite book again and again. It is a phenomenon that many people have tried to explain. New York Times editor Verlyn Klinkenborg notes that repetition has been ingrained into humans from a very young age.
“The love of repetition seems to be ingrained in children. And it is certainly ingrained in the way children learn to read —
witness the joyous and maddening love of hearing that same bedtime book read aloud all over again, word for word, inflection for inflection,” Klinkenborg wrote in a column last year.
It’s this kind of joy in repetition that seems to drive sophomore Sabrina Pederson, who has read some books in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series numerous times.
“For Harry Potter, it is like memorizing it over and over again,” Pederson said. “I do it because the more I read them over, the more I know about the characters and the story.”
Again, as school librarian Ms. Riley points out, it all seems to go back to childhood.
“Little kids love reading books like ‘Good Night Moon’ and ‘Brown Bear’ because they can remember them better. They love repetitive books,” Ms. Riley said.
One reason children may love repetition is for the comfort and stability of something familiar. This may be true of big kids, as well, as sophomore Michelle Lee explained.
“I read a book several times because no matter what is going on in my life, I will always know what is going to happen in the story, and that is just a little bit comforting,” Lee said.
Blogger Julia Buckley makes this same point, suggesting that re-reading can be like visiting an old friend from your past.
“I go to meet the story the way I would an old friend, perhaps for lunch or something,” she writes on Blogspot. “I remember everything I love about this friend...it’s the same joy.”
Many people who re-read favorite books say they notice something new each time, as Lee does with Harry Potter. Klinkenborg says that he forgets parts of the book, so they seem knew. His second theory, however, takes a deeper look, suggesting that each time you come back to the story, you are a different person.
“The real secret of re-reading is simply this: It is impossible. The characters remain the same, and the words never change, but the reader always does. Pip is always there to be revisited, but you, the reader, are a little like the convict who surprises him in the graveyard — always a stranger,” Klinkenborg writes.
For Cristine, who has been returning to the “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” for four years, her life and her perspectives certainly change between readings. She is different, and the conversations she has with the book are different.
But the main character, Charlie, always seems to give her a sense of direction.
“He gets into trouble the same way that I’ve been in trouble,” Marsala said. “The way he deals with it is different than the way I dealt with it, but when I know how he went through it, it helps me figure out how to do it differently.”