The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Dear friend, I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn’t try to sleep with that person at the party even though you could have.

– Opening sentence

The Perks of Being a Wallflower has been on my wishlist for a very long time. I knew it was a book of note, along the same lines of The Catcher of the Rye, but for some reason I’d never quite gotten around to reading it.

But then, my younger sister (and fellow book blogger) gave me a copy for Christmas and I finally got my opportunity to read it.

For some reason, I had always assumed that it was written from a girl’s perspective. I don’t know why I assumed this, I think when the film came out there was a lot of focus on Emma Watson and her role, which made me think she was the main character.

Either way, I was proved wrong when I starting reading and discovered it was written in the perspective of a boy called Charlie.

During his first year at High School, Charlie sends a bunch of letters to an anonymous character, someone he feels he can talk to so he feels less nervous.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower presents these series of letters which contains Charlie’s story, one of grief, confusion, love, fear and understanding. It’s a true coming-of-age story that I think I would have related to a lot during my own teenage years.

Being 15 is a difficult age for all, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower really encapsulates that, in a somewhat poetic yet hard-hitting way. We follow Charlie as he tries to make sense of the world; why people behave the way they do, and where he fits in amongst it all.

Charlie is a ‘wallflower’ – someone who is often quiet but constantly observing, listening and thinking. In some ways, that really resonated with me. I tend to live between two polars; sometimes I am full of confidence, bold and out-going. But mostly I am quiet, listening and observing the other people around me, thinking about where I fit in amongst it all.

However, there is something else about Charlie that I couldn’t quite but my finger on. Sometimes I thought he might be autistic. It’s not that I have a lot of experience with autism, but he follows the pattern of characters I have read in similar books, such as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, and A Boy Made of Blocks. It’s the way he takes what people say very literally, and struggles to understand how to communicate with the people around him. Yet, he’s extremely clever and always gets straight A’s at school.

But I’m not sure. Charlie has been through a lot at quite a young age, including the death of one of his closest friends. The experiences we go through as children shape the person we grow up to be, and perhaps Charlie, with two older siblings, simply has a more ‘mature’ mind which has caused him to think about things differently.

I think he’s caught in the stage between a boy and a man (which can be complicated enough) and it’s almost like he’s skipped a stage in his development, so he understands things like the fragility of life, but missed the step where we learn about relationships and human interactions.

I especially enjoyed all the references to others books and music, and how Charlie describes his favourite book as always being the last one he reads (something I think a lot of us bookworms can relate to!). The books referenced are:

  • To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  • Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  • The Stranger by Albert Camus
  • The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

I’ve already read a few from this list, but I have now added all of them to my wishlist. There’s nothing like a book-within-a-book recommendation to get you curious.

This was Chobsky’s first novel, which really surprised me. It’s an easy, thought-provoking read that I devoured in one sitting, written beautifully. It’s one that I know I will read again and again, because I know that each time I will get something different out of it.

I can’t say it’s a particularly happy book, but it’s not a particularly sad one either. I know it’s a bit predictable, but The Perks of Being a Wallflower really does live up to the hype, and I think everyone should read it at least once.

And I will believe the same about you.

– Final sentence

5 Stars (5 / 5)

1 Comment

  1. This was a great review! The Perks of Being a Wallflower has been on my TBR for years but somehow I never get to the point I pick it up and read it. Maybe I should. Your review touched all the right buttons to make me curious enough to find out how the story goes myself.

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