God, this book took me back. It's difficult for me to remember how I was and how I thought when I was that age, even though it was only 11 years ago. You change so much and you forget how intense everything is at that time. You forget how important acceptance and friendships were. How difficult it was to find yourself and be true to who you are in a world where peer pressure is rife and conformity is key. It's sad really.
I found Charlie to be a very endearing character, extremely wise in his naivety and innocence. He's extremely empathic and thoughtful, although that sometimes counts against him by keeping him from taking chances and seizing the moment. He's obviously struggling with depression or something even worse, but even so he has such a sensitive soul. He's very relatable as well, and it's easy to put yourself in his shoes and feel what he's feeling, because let's be honest, everyone has struggled with some kind of crushing depression before. But what I find the most memorable is that he knows it will pass. The dark times can be crushing, but as long as you hold on to the knowledge that this too shall pass, you'll be okay.
I also loved Sam and Patrick. They come across as such great people, accepting someone who's maybe a little weird and accepting him for who he is. If only all teenagers could be like that, I think the world would be a much better place. Sure, they introduced him to things like alcohol and drugs, but that's going to happen no matter what. The environment is important in these kinds of things though, and they allowed him to choose for himself whether or not he wanted to do what everyone else was doing, and then didn't judge him when he made a different choice than others.
Overall, I think this is a great story and although I worry about the next year for Charlie, I know he'll make it through.