A high school nobody who we know only as "Charlie" (we never learn his real name) has a fetish for detail and nostalgia. He looks at reality from a unique point of view, though he's not sure why. He's strange, awkward, quiet, and bursting with good intentions.
"Charlie" is also painfully naive (he talks a lot like Andy Warhol did, except Warhol was being naive for effect).
At first, "Charlie's" naivete is cute. Before long, it gets tedious. Then, right when you think you can't take it anymore and you're going to toss the book at the next passing bus, you realize that there's something terribly wrong here. You realize that this isn't bad writing on Chbosky's part, but rather Charlie's objective and callow approach to life is not just strange and annoying, it's scary. Scary in the sense that there might be something very wrong with "Charlie." Much like "Charlie," however, you aren't sure what or even why you're getting this impression.
I knew nothing about this book going in. I didn't know it was insanely popular, or that it is listed by the American Library Association as being one of the Top Banned Books in the United States. I knew simply that it was a series of letters from a less-than-perfect kid growing up in Pennsylvania. At first glance, it looked a lot like Joe Meno's book "Hairstyles of the Damned", which I adored.
As I got deeper and deeper into the book, it slowly evolved from a reasonably well-written teenage angst melodrama to a dark and utterly terrifying tale of horror that I couldn't put down. By the time I turned the last page, I was floored.
This is not a book to read the first 100 hundred pages of and then set aside (which you might very well be compelled to do). It is a book that you have to finish in order to understand. The end will explain the beginning and middle. It will also rip out your heart and lie it in front of you.
I loved this book. I wish I had never read it so I could read it again.