Monday, June 17, 2013

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
movie tie-in book jacket
Chbosky, Stephen. 1999. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: Gallery Books.  ISBN 978-1-4516-9619-6
Charlie is an awkward teen who, after the suicide of his best friend and the death of his Aunt Helen, sits outside of life looking in at others.  Set during the early 1990's during Charlie's freshman year of high school, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is told through letters written to an anonymous "friend" at part of Charlie's prescribed treatment.  Through the letters Charlie introduces us to his family, his newfound group of older friends including the beautiful Sam and homosexual but wonderful Patrick.  The novel is a journey through first dates, drug experimentation, sex, music, and truth even when it is painful and damaging.  Through the journey Charlie discovers, with the help of friends, family, his English teacher Bill, and therapy that growing up and navigating life are hard but ultimately worth the ride.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a hauntingly accurate and heartbreaking coming of age story about a boy who is emotionally fragile.  The novel is well written and cleverly uses the letter format to soften the harsh reality of Charlie's world which is filled with suicide, sex, drugs, molestation, abuse, and loneliness. 
The characters are portrayed as rather two dimensional.  Chbosky fails to fully develop any character other than Charlie.  However, due to the nature of the book and letter format this oversight does not detract from the storyline or ultimate conclusion.  Rather, the flatness of the other character lends to a realness to Charlie which enhances his appeal and allows the reader to develop a relationship with him through his painful past. 
One area in which Chbosky succeeds is the presentation of the feelings associated with adolescents.  The natural mistrust of adults, especially parents, accompanied by the need to belong to a group of peers and find acceptance drives the novel and establishes an honesty within the text.  Also, the use of a large cast of supporting characters provides a glimpse into the many facets of Charlie's world.  And finally, the use of foreshadowing throughout the novel in the form of discussions and memories of Aunt Helen lead the reader down a winding path with Charlie toward truth and discovery. 
The novel also makes excellent use of music and literature selections as a form of communication.  Within the book Charlie is given additional reading materials by Bill and introduced to musical selections from multiple sources.  Knowledge of these literary and musical items helps forward the storyline and provides insight into Charlie's emotional state.

  • While the novel has won no major awards it is important to note that according to the American Library Association this book is frequently banned or challenged due to the content.  It should also be noted that the ALA does not support banning books and believes in intellectual freedom.  For more information please visit the following website:
  • The book was made into a film in 2012.  The film adaptation stars Logan Lerman and Emma Watson and features a screenplay by the author Stephen Chbosky. 

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