“I know these will all be stories someday. And our pictures will become old photographs. We’ll all become somebody’s mom or dad. But right now these moments are not stories. This is happening, I am here and I am looking at her. And she is so beautiful. I can see it. This one moment when you know you’re not a sad story. You are alive, and you stand up and see the lights on the buildings and everything that makes you wonder. And you’re listening to that song and that drive with the people you love most in this world. And in this moment I swear, we are infinite.”
Originally published in 1999, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, written by Stephen Chbosky, is a modern coming-of-age story that follows a shy and unpopular freshman, Charlie, who is nervous about beginning his first year of high school. Taken under the wings of two seniors, Patrick and Sam, Charlie is welcomed into the real world of friendships, first loves, drugs, and the general awkwardnesses of adolescence, as the people he meets who help him to find out who he really is.
But is it only a matter of time before his traumatised past creeps up on him?
The following post is a review of the book only. You can read my review of the film adaptation in comparison to the book here.
Following a modern-day John Hughes’ type high school drama, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower tells an honest story of a troubled boy and the people he meets who begin to shape his life. Showing that everybody has had some form of trauma in their past, whether it be small or life changing, and whether they wear it on their sleeve or conceal it from all to see, the story explores a number of modern teenage situations, bringing together issues of friendship, love, and the different ways that people deal with their experiences.
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower deals with many young adult themes, but also some much maturer material, including an abortion, sexual abuse, and the ups and downs of both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. Many of these characters drink, smoke, and use drugs, as well. But it’s not about creating role models or a lesson in what to do – or not to do – during high school, it’s about being yourself, sending out the message that you should accept everybody for who they are, regardless of their life choices.
Narrated by the protagonist, Charlie, the book is told through a series of letters. As these letters catalogue Charlie’s attempts to “participate” with new friends in a new school, we follow him on an incredibly personal and transformative journey. It is this journey that the premise focuses on, but it is also used a narrative device in Chbosky’s writing to show how Charlie’s character develops.
As Charlie’s teacher and close mentor, Bill, gives Charlie more books to read over the course of the term, Charlie’s letters improve in both grammar and sentence structure. This is a strong quality of the book, as we see Charlie’s character grow. However, this also meant that the first half of the book comes across as quite childish, resulting in a lack of engagement at the beginning. But as Charlie’s writing improves, the book picks up as we find it easier to relate to Charlie’s character, as he talks about his situation in a sophisticated manner. This point of view also means that we get to see all of Charlie’s low moments, as well, which does come across as quite weepy at times, but it’s also a huge quality to have such a close connection to the lead character.
Overall, The Perks of Being A Wallflower is highly relatable; the story is emotional, heartfelt, and has a surprising depth to it, which will leave most audiences affected in one way or another.
The Perks of Being A Wallflower was adapted into a film in 2012, which you can read my Book vs. Film Review for here, and watch the trailer for below: