The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is about a young freshman named Charlie, who may be what some call socially awkward. A total introvert, shy but extremely intelligent, Charlie tries to “participate” more in high school social activities, which is where he meets two seniors, Sam and Patrick, who open him up to a new world.
“He’s a wallflower. You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.” – Patrick, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Charlie’s story of his first year in high school is told through a series of letters that he sends anonymously to a person who will “listen and understand and didn’t try to sleep with that person at that party even though they could have.”
With the help of Sam and Patrick, Charlie deals with first kisses, family drama, new friends, school fights, accidental drugged states and lots of parties. Charlie is the type of person who is always doing things for other people, whether its his parents, brother, sister, or friends. He loves to buy gifts for others just to make them happy.
“Charlie, we accept the love we think we deserve.” – Bill, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
He slowly begins to realize that he can’t just be a wallflower, he has to take charge of his life and do what he wants for once. He can’t just push his feelings aside but accept them and embrace them.
“It’s great that you can listen and be a shoulder to someone, but what about when someone doesn’t need a shoulder. What if they need the arms or something like that? You can’t just sit there and out everybody’s lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can’t. You have to do things.” – Sam, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Even though the book takes place in 1991, it is still very relatable. The Internet hasn’t become popular yet and they still listen to mix tapes, but the characters and experiences are the same; Prom is still a big affair, Graduation, Sadie Hawkins’ dances, and Truth or Dare. What I loved about the book is the range of characters that you see presented; Patrick is openly gay, whereas Brad is still in the closet, Charlie’s brother is the football star, his sister is the popular girl, and Sam is trying to find herself. Each of these characters has their own secrets and struggles which are revealed throughout the book.
I couldn’t help but reflect back on my high school experiences. I didn’t have the same experiences as Charlie, but when reading the book I did think about the things that I did or didn’t do in high school, my regrets and my accomplishments. Also the hinted literary references throughout the book are a nice touch by Chbosky, which made me feel a bit of nostalgia for my high school English classes.
I give this book a 4.5/5, only because at times I struggled with the writing style. The book was very much written in the way that a 15/16 year old boy would speak, so it was difficult at times for me to follow along, especially when Charlie was in a drugged state. Although I understand why Chbosky chose to use this style, and there were other times in the book where I appreciated the narration style as it allowed me to connect with Charlie’s character.
As a 24 year old, I definitely enjoyed the book, but I feel like it would have resonated a bit more with me had I still been in high school. This is a perfect coming-of-age story, definitely a must read for anyone in high school (especially those in first year)!