Fatuma's Reviews > The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
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's review
Jan 08, 13

really liked it
bookshelves: young-adult
Read from January 06 to 07, 2013

review previously posted here: Book Rants - My Blog

Dear Friend,

This book gives me mixed feelings. Overall, I really liked The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The problem is that I cannot pinpoint exactly why. Is it due to Charlie's endearing naivete and vulnerability? Do I enjoy the book because I pity Charlie? I don't think so. It could be the simple fact that getting a glimpse of Charlie's innocence/sweetness (aka stupidity) and his interactions with his friends (who are interesting and quite original) make me smile... almost in affection. A book that makes you smile can't be all bad, can it? At the end of the novel, I feel good that Charlie will eventually be alright.

Yet, there's a part of me that feels a little guilty about liking this book. Despite how much I personally like Charlie, the other characters, and the epistolary format of the novel, the writing itself isn't very strong. Chbosky squeezes in way to much drama ineffectively. There's simply too much going on, without a true plot structure or story arch. It's almost as if he simply ripped out a year's worth of entries from his own personal diary and sent it off as a manuscript! While I understand that that may have been exactly his point, it was not presented well to readers.

I believe that the weak presentation is due in part to the many "conflicts" between the aspects of the characters and story that readers are expected to believe and their portrayal. For example, Charlie is meant to be an extremely intelligent 15-year-old, nearly a genius. That's what we're expected to believe based on his interactions with his teacher. Yet, this is highly unbelievable based on the entire work which is written in Charlie's voice and words! Each letter to "dear Friend" sounds like a 10-year-old's letter to Santa. The writing in the letters lack the sophistication that's supposedly evident in the book reports Charlie writes for his advanced English class. Also, how can someone who has experienced as much as Charlie has remain this innocent?! It was startlingly and unbelievable to me as a reader. Lastly, the big question of whether or not Charlie has a disability. As an education major who recently took a Special Education course last semester, I couldn't help trying to diagnose Charlie as I read the book. While I know, I am no expert, I could not find a mold that he truly fit into. At some points I though he may have an intellectual disability or emotional Disturbance. I finally narrowed it down to perhaps autism or Asbergers, but those don't seem quite right either. As a result, Charlie's characters may be seen as a little disrespectful to those with disabilities and their friends and families.

In the end, I do like The perks of Being a Wallflower, but Chbosky tries to do too much with not enough precision in his writing. Importance choices about what aspects of the novel are truly vital to the novel should have been made and those of little to no importance should have been cut out. A potentially amazing story and characters is made less enjoyable and less believable by weak writing.

Charlie Fatuma

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