The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The Skinny: Charlie’s letters reveal very little details of his life – his last name, where he’s from, who he is writing to – but in his letters more is revealed not only about himself but about the world he lives in. Charlie writes to an unknown person as a way to communicate what he is going through, the trials of high school and of growing up, in a world where he has always taken a back seat. After the suicide of his best friend and the graduation (and departure for college) of his older brother, Charlie is determined to make a fresh start as a freshman in high school. He meets Patrick and Sam, seniors, who usher him into a world filled with sex, drugs and rock and roll.
BFF?: I don’t know if I want to be Charlie’s friend or his big sister and give him a huge hug. There’s something awkwardly heartwarming about him that just makes my heart go out to him but at the same time laugh with him. He’s completely innocent but acutely perceptive and somehow just knows what’s going on, even though he has no idea about it. Charlie is really one of the best characters I’ve come across. No, he’s not fun and exciting, he’s not someone I’d want to go hang out with after work; but he’s someone I could curl up on the couch with and talk about deep, sensitive subjects. Like the future… or why the Kardashians are so popular.
Readability: It’s letters, folks. Not the perfectly penned, grammatically correct letters your grandmother writes, but open and honest and voice-filled letters written from the hand of a teenage boy. As I read the letters I actually forgot I was reading a book. They were that good. It’s funny how every time I read a book that is written journal-style or in letters I automatically think that I’m going to get tired of reading just one person’s thoughts that they jot down. But like most books written in this style, I really don’t. Charlie’s letters give just enough insight into his world to follow, but leave you still looking at it through his eyes. Does that make sense? Because it sounded for poignant to me.
Crush Level: 3
I really likened Charlie to an awkward little brother figure at first. But the more I got to know him, the more he turned into an awkward younger guy friend, the kind that looks at you as the older, more experienced friend that he goes to for girl advice. Then one day you look at him and think “hey, he’s kind of cute” and develop a small crush on him. But he’s still your friend and you’ve got the golden ticket to doing things like curling up on the couch together without it being awkward or flirty. Because you’re friends. Anyway… going back to Charlie. I might have developed a tiny crush on him, but only because he’s so gosh darn cute and awkward.
Keeping it Real/Soap Box Potential
Lemme get up on my soap box for a moment. Okay. I’m ready. This book contains the following: sex, homosexuality, depression, suicide, child pornography, profane language and drugs. GASP! Oh wait. So does EVERY SHOW ON TELEVISION. After finishing the book I could understand why it was banned. I can understand why certain groups don’t want teenagers exposed to this material. Too bad they’re exposed to this stuff every day. I know we’re hesitant to let younger generations become exposed to the darker sides of life, but they’re prevalent and more common than they’ve ever been. Anything that can help a person learn to cope with whatever they’re going through doesn’t need to be banned. Major bonus points to this book for keeping it real and showing what every day teenagers go through.
Awesome English Teacher
Charlie’s English teacher, Bill, plays a large role in Charlie’s life by assigning him different books to read as well as offering him advice. As someone who loved English in high school and had a couple of really awesome English teachers, I really liked the fact that Bill took special interest in Charlie and noticed his potential and need for finding himself in the books.
There are so many references to music in this book that it could pretty much be its own awesome mix tape. Charlie is introduced so some great music, ranging from everything from the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel to The Smashing Pumpkins and the Smiths. Not to mention a personal favorite, A Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum.
Commencement Speech: There are very few books out there that have been too hard to read. And I don’t mean epically bad hard to read, but hard to read in the sense that the content is so powerful I have to step away and take deep breaths and pop a few Xanax (please note, I do not do this. Joking. Calm down.). The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of those books. I really didn’t know what I was getting into and within the first few pages I knew I had come across something that would drive me to drink while allowing me to love it at the same time. Though it was deep and raw and filled with difficulties, I know this book will be a place I can come back to.
Superlatives – Most Likely to be Banned in 27 States (for being too awesome)