The Perks of Being A Wallflower

February 22, 2016
The Perks of Being A Wallflower Book Cover The Perks of Being A Wallflower
Stephen Chobsky
Coming of Age
MTV Books and Pocket Books
February 1st, 1999
Paperback
213
Library

Charlie is a freshman.

And while he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.

Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can't stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

(via Goodreads)

Perks_Movie_Poster

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of the quintessential books that defines the Young Adult genre. Written in 1999, it’s a timeless tale of what it’s like to go through puberty and struggle through high school. Through a series of letters (yet ANOTHER epistolary novel?! I’m on a ROLL) we experience the disorganized thoughts of a 15 year old boy as he experiences… well, more or less every first you get through puberty: sex, drugs, alcohol, social pressures, awkward family relationships, grief, homosexuality, parties… and all the terrible consequences of life: suicide, mental illness, drug abuse, abortion, fights, domestic abuse, sexual abuse… It’s everything but the kitchen sink thrown into 213 pages.

“And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”

As my friend Kara said, “It has everything but a dog dying and cancer.”

I feel infiniteUnlike the previous two epistolary novels I’ve read in 2016, these letters are written by Charlie to a “friend”. This friend is not identified, and because of this, I felt like I was the friend Charlie was writing to. This really appealed to me. It made me feel like I was listening to a true story, and this story was something of which only Charlie and I knew every single detail. It was like a secret diary. I sometimes felt a bit embarrassed to be reading it, and honestly when Charlie starts addressing the “friend” he is writing to at the end of the book directly, well, the magic was ruined for me… , but that didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the story being told.

“I put my head under my pillow, and let the quiet put things where they are supposed to be.”

Throughout this book, I never really understood Charlie. I was frustrated by his stilted writing style (is Charlie some form of Autistic? Or is this just an affect of his traumatic childhood?) and the way he tended to float through life. However, as flawed as these characters are, they are quite real depictions of people we encounter in our lives. And, in all honesty, I think it’s good that I never understood Charlie. No one understood him, not even Charlie understood Charlie, and since he is our narrator, there is no way for us to understand if he doesn’t understand himself. It was a seemingly convoluted way to explain the inability to identify who you are in puberty– but it was perfect.

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”

And, sadly, I could completely relate. No one knows who they are when they are 15. And no one should be expected to.

“I am interested and fascinated how everyone loves each other, but no one really likes each other.” – Charlie, on spending time with family

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER Ph: John Bramley © 2011 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.

Not that I could relate to all the experiences Charlie went through. No. Those just gave me all the feels. But it was the fact that Charlie didn’t understand who he was or what he was supposed to do and it just looked like everyone else really had their shit together. Well, with a few noted exceptions he mentions. But, seriously. Charlie knew he wasn’t normal and had no idea how to even find “normal”.

 

“I would die for you. But I won’t live for you.”

Towards the end of the book, I started to realize there was a lot around depression hiding between the words. As someone who has witnessed many people in their life struggle with depression, but who has never seriously struggled with it personally, I just don’t understand. And that’s a point of frustration for me. I don’t want to be impatient or frustrated with my friends who are suffering, but sometimes it happens. This book helped me start to understand what I’m missing. I never will completely get it, and I know that, but can at least make a better effort to empathize thanks to this book.

“We accept the love we think we deserve.”

(L to R) LOGAN LERMAN, MAE WHITMAN, EZRA MILLER and ERIN WILHELMI star in THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER Ph: John Bramley © 2011 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.Also, the bibliophile in me really loved a lot about this. Charlie’s English teacher, Bill, keeps proving him tons of books to read. I have read shockingly few of them. Now 90% of them are on my TBR list (not that I’ll get to them anytime soon…). Also, this book contains a ton of great quotes. My roommate criticized me on the earmarks which I… sorta… accidentally… in a fit of reading-obsessed laziness, seemed to put on every page.

So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.

Just be thankful there aren’t more quotes in this post.

“This moment will just be another story someday.”

All-in-all a great depiction of struggling with puberty and personal identity. If you haven’t read it, you should.

4 stars

4 Comments

  • M @ A Blog Of One's Own September 23, 2016 at 8:22 pm

    Great review! I had similar feelings about this book. I could definitely relate to lots of the things Charlie was going through, even though I might not have understood him. I also loved the references to literature 🙂

    • Jackie B September 24, 2016 at 1:03 pm

      Right?! I am working on the Rory Gilmore reading challenge (this will take me years)– but I have been tossing about in my mind reading all the books mentioned in Perks. It will be a much shorter list, and there should be some overlap. The endless quest to complete my TBR seems impossible as I consider adding more books.

  • Diana November 4, 2016 at 12:42 am

    Great review. I wrote mine yesterday but have it scheduled for tomorrow.I liked the book so much though the ending when Charlie broke-down was heartbreaking. I liked the quotes that you shared especially the one on the the love that we deserve and the other one on infinite.

    About Charlie’s issues, I haven’t watched the movie yet but I checked it on YouTube and was interested in the discussions. There was something about Hellen having been inappropriate with Charlie hence damaging him. I didn’t get that at all from the book. Have you watched the movie?

    • Jackie B November 7, 2016 at 1:08 pm

      No, I haven’t watched the movie. It’s on my list, but I’m not a huge movie buff, so it will probably take a while. I actually really enjoy watching movies once I’ve read the book and doing a personal compare and contrast. It sounds like some changes might have been made to make it a “better” film. I am certainly interested.
      I’ll be checking your own review out now. 🙂 Thanks for the feedback!!

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