Meredith's Reviews > The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
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's review
Jun 06, 2008

it was ok
Recommended for: someone bored. it's an easy read.

Resounding accuracy of the voice of a boy teetering on the brink of adulthood, goodreads? Um yeah, maybe if all kids teetering on the brink of adulthood made you question if they were autistic and spent the majority of their free time reading the classics and going to therapy. Don't get me wrong. This book is good. You want to find out what the deal is with the main character for the entire book and at the end, you eventually get a pretty damn good idea. But for the love, this is not the Catcher in the Rye for the 90s. And it's just unrealistic. You find out at the end why he is so weird, but the catch-22 about this book for me is that a kid with his kind of emotional issues probably never would have been able to experience the kind of social interaction he experiences and writes about throughout the book.

Bottom line, kids are mean, especially in HS, and they would have been mean to this kid if he was as odd as he portrays himself to be in the "letters" he writes. In the book, the big denouement is catalyzed when he finally makes out with a girl he's had a crush on the whole book. In real life, that girl never would have even spoken to him, let alone gotten to the point of making out with him.

Finally, there is a whole hippie vibe to this book that reminded me of a Wonder Years episode. You'd have no idea that it was supposed to take place in the early 90s if the diary entries hadn't been dated. The lack of relevant cultural references really bothered me.
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04/27/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-50 of 54) (54 new)

Harmony I totally thought the kid was autistic. It might be the influence of having recently read the wonderful "Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime," but a lot of things about him read like autism.

I felt cheated, like "that's it?" I don't feel like his problem would have made him the weird kid he became, and perhaps that's because i know a lot of kids and adults who've dealt with his problem both head-on and years afterwards. Just doesn't equate.

I did however enjoy the subtle undertone of depression, and I could relate to the feeling of their being something wrong and not knowing what the something was. Those were probably the most realistic portions of the book.

Lisel I do agree with some of your review. But don't you think it's a bit of a generalization to say that "kids are mean, especially in HS, and they would have been mean to this kid if he was as odd as he portrays himself to be in the "letters" he writes" and that "in real life, that girl never would have even spoken to him, let alone gotten to the point of making out with him"?
Being in high school, myself, I'd say it's true that it can be difficult to be "weird." But not all high-schoolers are mean, and the author made it clear that the main character found friendship in a particularly unusual group of individuals. He wouldn't have, and didn't, fit in with "the normal crowd."

message 3: by Jake (new)

Jake I think you have forgotten the whole high school experience. In my opinion, this is one of the most realistic books out there.

message 4: by Tony (new)

Tony Yeah, I agree with Jake. You suck.

message 5: by Chelsie (last edited Jul 06, 2009 09:00AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chelsie Mitchell I do agree with you pointing out the lack of reference of the time era in the letters but when you said "In real life, that girl never would have even spoken to him, let alone gotten to the point of making out with him." i will strongly disagree with you there. Thats a biased,ignorant statement which is basically fluff. How do you know that? Do you say this because you wouldn't date him? Or is it thats not how its suppose to work?

Sara So, I completely disagree with you. I feel like, and I know other people who agree with me, that the people who befriended him were the 'sub cool.' They were the losers in high school who appeared cool because they were amongst eachother. I feel like anyone who looks at this book from the judgemental sort of way completely missed it's point. It's about seeing things from a different perspective, it's about the journey of finding yourself; not just in high school but in your entire life. I myself, had a pretty fucked up life in my transitioning years and reading this book was like reading the thoughts and feelings of someone who understood me. I feel like the kid in this book should be my best friend. Like when he talks about feeling infinite, those moments in my life I so cherish. I'm just sorry that the book didn't move you in the way that it did so many others.

Hunter I think that Charlie probably did have many people tease him...or at least talk about him behind his back a few times. But I believe he was sort of invisible at school. And Sam and Patrick were people who could accept him. They were very cool kids. I've met people who are like they are before, and they are in their own worlds without being unhealthily disconnected from reality. I doubt the book was meant to portray every teenager teetering on the brink of adulthood. Just Charlie.

message 8: by Carisa (new)

Carisa "I feel like anyone who looks at this book from the judgemental sort of way completely missed it's point." --Sara

Amen Sister.

Hannah Mangen Just for the record, it's not like he got to make out with his crush and everything was hunky dory afterward. and no, high school kids would not necessarily be mean to him, if he did indeed have autism. I know plenty o people in my high school that would talk to someone who had autism, anddo so. So I really don't agree at all.

message 10: by Cody (new)

Cody Well Meredith, i along with apparently many other people dissagree with your review. You cant just say that this book is unrealistic because charlie is weird and highschool kids would make fun of him. Charlie is weird yes but he does not have many friends at all and like someone else said the friends that he has are not the "cool crowd". His only friends are seniors who all have life issues of their own so they understand him better than the "mean kids". Charlie was probobly very hard to notice in highschool other than when he was in fights. He never talks he just sits back and listens, so he probobly never encountered much teasing in HS and if he did he didnt choose to write about it because he had more going on that that and really only cared about what his friends thought of him. And i do not see the hippie vibe? other than people having sex and doing drugs that is which was pretty typical in my HS. and also you could figure out a rough time period because the band the smiths was formed in the early eighties and the book was released in 1999 so there isnt a huge window of time there.

I think that maybe your HS experience involved alot of teasing and maybe things didnt go as you liked as far as friends and signifigant others are concerned and therefore you dont find this realistic. I think if you read this book without predisposed bias then maybe you would like it a lil more : )

message 11: by Nykki (new)

Nykki I also have to disagree to some points. Patrick wasn't exactly part of the cool crowd. Yes, he was a class clown and could make people laugh but he wasn't a jock. This is evident in numerous places such as, "Patrick actually used to be popular before Sam bought him some good music." (43) and also when Patrick gets in a fight with Brad and some of the other football jocks.

Also, Sam hung out with those same people that her brother hung out with. It is extremely probable that she wouldn't be a shallow person especially with her brother's homosexuality in the 90s. She would be even more accepting because of that so why should either of them not accept Charlie even if he is strange? And why should Sam not kiss Charlie in the end. She gets to know him and cares for him.

I can actually relate a lot to Sam. I was a senior and hung out with the stoner people. We had a blast and in our world we were popular because there were lots of us and we cared about each other. I also fell for a strange guy that was a few years younger than me. I see a lot of myself in Sam and a lot of that guy in Charlie.

Maybe try rereading the book with these ideas in mind and it may seem more realistic.

message 12: by Carlie (new) - added it

Carlie I think the whole point of this book was to show how there can't really be a stereotype for a high school kid (unless the stereotype is how un-stereotypical everyone is...). There isn't one kid in this world who hasn't gone through something tragic at least once in their lifetime. I doubt Charlie was autistic, just extremely sensitive to other's feelings as well as his own. Add that to his lack of experience, and he was just this confused kid who got really lucky in finding such great friends who helped him find out more about himself as well as learn knew things. But come on, books are always better when someone illicitly gay and someone unattainable (who is later found to be attainable) are involved.

I think maybe it's just different for every generation. If you're questioning his mental capacity, then obviously you didn't truly understand where Charlie was coming from.

And yeah, everyone teeters on the edge of adulthood in their own way, and gets past it just the same. The word teeter is used for a reason; there's always something in life that throws you off balance.

message 13: by Megan (new) - rated it 1 star

Megan Good review! I also couldn't help feeling that Charlie had some sort of mental retardation ~ autism totally fits. He just wasn't right, and a little too naive for a 16 year old boy. And crying everytime he became nervous? Ah....that kid clearly has some extreme issues beyond what is provided in the book.

message 14: by Charles (new)

Charles He wasnt autistic, he had some other problem that he never touched upon in the novel. Keep in mind that the story isnt entirely false, not true either.

His dad had a severe brain hemmorage when he was about ten and he spent most of his time in the ICU reading novels and doing math. Because of this he never really learned to develop interpersonal relationships at a young age. He was quiet and kept to himself, sure, but not autistic.

If he were autistic, he wouldnt have been so good at expressing his feelings throughout the whole novel. He also exaggerated his inability to communicate with others and his naivety so that his character would be more "charming" to readers.

Charlie went on to attain one of the most difficult college degrees in existence, Computer Science. He also helped write the Windows 7 code. Withdrawn, but also one of the greatest mathematical minds of our generation. He spends the majority of his time reading about Quantum Mechanics and World Religions. That isnt "mental retardation".

Some of the letters were written to Bill Gates. Some to himself, he got the idea from Anne Franks diary, adressing his journal with the name of a girl he liked.


Texaslibrarylady My high school book club kids thought Charlie's character was totally real. "He's like one of my group," said one kid. Kids are a lot more complex and accepting than you might think, at least the ones I know in Austin, TX.

message 16: by [deleted user] (last edited Oct 27, 2010 07:41PM) (new)

What's wrong with reading classic books? You're placing a review on a website dedicated to books and you're categorizing the classics as something weird?

Overall, I felt your review was shallow and provided little information/insight about the book.

Michelle I love you right now for this review.

message 18: by Derek (new) - rated it 1 star

Derek hit the nail on the head! The whole book I wondered if he was autistic or just incredibly retarded. With a kid this wacked out why didn't his parents actually pay attention to what he was doing

Daria Douglas It's not autism, it's called a flat affect, and it's a coping mechanism and symptom common of those who have suffered abuse and/or have depression. I'm not going to pretend I know a lot about autism, as most people don't, but don't assume based on inaccurate misconceptions.

Bookish Lack of relevant cultural references? I had the exact opposite opinion...that I thought his cultural references were spot on.

Katie I'll agree with Laura. Cultural references abound. Are they relevant to you? Maybe not.

message 22: by Becca (new)

Becca Saying that he would have never had the social interaction he had is just a blind observation. First of all, if you really look into the description of his friends, they aren't the most popular people in high school. In many ways they're just as strange as him. They accept him for him. My best friend has an autistic brother. Now, my school isn't known for having the nicest kids but they accept him for him and he has a lot of friends. He gets that "social interaction" that you're talking about.
Also, it doesn't matter if the entires were dated, kids are kids, no matter what age they're growing up in teenagers smoke pot, drink, and do a ton of other drugs.

Titilope I did hate this book, with a burning passion. However, I felt it was filled with cultural references to the point where it was just plain annoying. You like The Smiths, we get it. Your family watches M*A*S*H okay? It just really really really really really irritated me. I, as a teenager felt it was a stupid representation of teenage life, very unrealistic and somewhat overly PC. The book is inappropriately titled because the main character wasn't much of a wallflower. He was very involved. The only observing he did throughout the book were in the first two pages. I didn't even finish the book, because it annoyed me that much. Though, I commend it, it seems to have been able to appeal to a bunch of people out there even if it is a very contrived, slightly pretentious novel.

Jolynn Reviews are pretentious. Everyone pretends to know more than they really do. Let's not forget that Stephen wrote a phenomenal book and you didn't!

Titilope "Reviews are pretentious. Everyone pretends to know more than they really do. Let's not forget that Stephen wrote a phenomenal book and you didn't!"

Let's not forget that books are meant to be enjoyed, and if a person did not enjoy a book they're allowed to say so.

Also, whether or not he wrote a phenomenal book is purely subjective. You think he did, other people may think otherwise; be a little more grown up about it.

Maggie While I respect your review, as a high school teacher, I can tell you the description of this kid... is SPOT ON. Always have these kids in class - the uber-intellectual reading-the-classics kinda-keep-to-their-own. Good point about the cultural references.

Brandon Cultural time period? The 80s or very early 90s. I mean, come on, he makes MIXED CASSETTE TAPES for people, and even lists the bands (most of them are 80s).

Graili I have advice for you, pal: Go back to high school and rewrite this review. Yeesh.

Sophie This is an incredibly close-minded, shallow and ignorant review. Sara's comment was very accurate. I think you've completely missed the point of the book, which is so sad to me because it's message is beautiful. I get something new out of this book every time I read it.

Jamie I, too, feel your review is deeply skewed. It sounds like maybe you were one of the "normal" people in your high school, and probably did some of the bullying, based on the vehemence of your statement about Charlie being weird. The character was definitely misunderstood, even by the people he hung out with, but he was accepted for who he was. Have you never seen "My So-Called Life..." ? this book was deeply reminiscent of that storyline as well. This book was spot on for time period references and ambiance.

Kaitlyn I can fully believe and accept that everyone is entitled to their own opinion...but let's clarify, autism is NOT mental retardation, nor is it anywhere near the same category; but most importantly, to be so vehement as to say Charlie is autistic, is a bit presumptuous and ill-constrewed.

...and for anyone to be upset with there being TOO many OR not enough cultural references, so be it. We're all entitled to our opinions, as I said. However, perhaps a few of you negative reviewers could have a bit of class upon writing and responding with your thoughts.

This book is a phenomenal book, and that is not a subjective opinion...when a book gets a many sales and hits as many rave reviews as this one, it cannot be categorized as anything less.

Regardless of how Charlie is represented in this book, you cannot stand so sturdy and firm with the opinion that he wasn't a wallflower, nor that he wasn't accepted. You CAN be both, simultaneously. It's not as if he was crowned with popularity; he does not have but a handful of friends in this book, and he does write an awful lot of observations about those few people and his though he's a bit socially inept, there is total endearing truth that he is both accepted and is a "wallflower" since he is never the brash, loud, or verbose type of person. He's always fluttering on the outskirts, dabbling in the center every now and then, observing the few people that accept him. He writes with a very dysphoric approach, but that does not mean he is autistic, unreal, or anything less than/more than an awkwardly observant outsider, innocently and boldly articulating the world he sees.

It may or may not represent social truth of teens today, but if anything, it really does both...and I for one, think this book was/is spot on with cultural references, absolutely well-written, and most certainty a book that can be taken realistically. just because you (subjective to who's reading this) didn't read the classics, or find Charlie that relatable - you can't claim, with brash presumption, that there are no teens out there like him, or that there are no teens out there that would accept him.

If that's truly what you believe, I pity the ugly world you live in. It's true people have the ability to be heinously mean, but condemning a book for it's lack of/excessive amount of cultural references, for the main character's social depiction, for the literature read and listed within, for the acceptance of an outsider - that is such a horribly low ball and ferociously tacky stance to take.

Kaitlyn I also apologize for the few typos, I wrote the review comment from my phone...but in any case, this is not my favourite book, however it is one that I will always recommend and always bear upon my bookshelf.

message 33: by Kat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kat Everyone is entiitled to their opinion but couldn't you have put a spoiler alert?

Titilope Hate to be break it to you Kaitlyn... but thinking this book is phenomenal is purely 100% subjective.

Natalie You totally missed the point....

message 36: by Peter (last edited Nov 13, 2011 09:40PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars


I agree that the descriptions of the book make it sound like this is a story of a typical High School freshman growing up. Perks of Being a Wallflower is a story about a specific boy in the first year of High School. The reason for his mental illness (which isn't really Autism within the scientific consensus) is probably not unusual at all. I definitely think someone like Charlie would read intensely and go to therapy, write letters, and know tons and tons of classic music. I haven't read the Catcher in the Rye, but I think writing the story as a series of letters is coincidence, though I'll admit the author must have been aware of the success of using all letters to tell the story. I do not think the author chose the style simply because of being one of the magical formulas of a successful novel. I think it was a critical element in the character and his natural subconscious way to help make things clear again. Writing letters this way is fairly common, I think. Many artists talk about letters they are writing (besides the songs). RHCP, and Finch songs come to mind right away (I suppose my references are about right for teenage hormone days when I was growing up, though). I will also admit it would be far more likely Charlie would write letters to Sam once Sam went off to college than to some girl who simply didn't have sex with someone even though she could have. I suppose, given the circumstances, in the end who he wrote to, and why he wouldn't write to Sam to make things work out makes sense.

I thought this story seemed like it could be based on a true story, at least somewhat. The author may have made some unrealistic elements to help tell his story. I forgot if Charlie mentions how he became friends with Sam and Patrick. Were they children of friends of his parents or something? Anyway, I think being a mentor for a younger peer happens more than you might think (although probably not unless they knew each other sometime before). Would an older beautiful girl like Sam do what she did? Not usually, and probably not at their ages, but Charlie was portrayed to be really smart. Something was holding him back from greatness, though. Sam seemed to understand all this the entire book. Everything she did was because she loved him. She obviously wanted to extend herself for Sam's spiritual growth. If the story went on, I think they would both date other people for a while but get back together again once Charlie has had more experiences getting what he wanted. He would use the time he used to write the letters to start writing a book or something. What about all those letters he sent? Would he end up getting them back? Would he publish them and become a national best-selling author? Then Sam would know that he's ready and helped nurture a great success. She might want to continue nurturing and mentoring him--in a romantic relationship especially now that he's making good money doing exactly what he should be doing.

Alejandra Jolynn wrote: "Reviews are pretentious. Everyone pretends to know more than they really do. Let's not forget that Stephen wrote a phenomenal book and you didn't!"

Hear, Hear! Alas, someone has said it. I love when people review books, speaking as if they, themselves, were professional critics. "Everyone's a critic," my brother used to say. And yet, those who bash this book for whatever characteristic didn't appeal to them have written nothing that attempts to amount to Chbosky's writing.

Alejandra Titilope wrote: ""Reviews are pretentious. Everyone pretends to know more than they really do. Let's not forget that Stephen wrote a phenomenal book and you didn't!"

Let's not forget that books are meant to be en..."

And to say that "it is a very contrived, slightly pretentious novel" is too subjective, yet it seems you have forgotten subjectivity when it convenes you. Further more, books first came about, not as a means of enjoyment as you categorized their intentions, but rather as a means of record. Thereafter, books strayed from their initial purpose to project stories for educational purposed, eventually falling victim to propaganda use, etc. Our current generation, sadly, feels that books owe them something: entertainment. I disagree; books offer so much more than the trite desire to be entertained. Secondly, an author does not write a book solely for his/her readers to enjoy it, but a way to express his/her ideas--Ayn Rand being an obvious example. Text books, another example of books not only meant to be enjoyed, offer educational value above recreation. So let us all "be a little more grown up about" how we respond to each other, as we are some of the delectable few who read in this world. We grow scarcer and scarcer with each coming year.

Caira It wasn't autism. It was more like a mental illness that stemmed from his aunt molesting him. It wasn't explicitly stated but it was implied that his aunt molested him and that messed with his head. His aunt was the only one that thought he was special and when she died it's like he retreated to himself. Just saying since people keep thinking he was autistic or something. He has mental disorder cause he was molested.

Coleen Thank you for pointing that out, Caira. It isn't autism or mental retardation. You are entitled to your opinion, but maybe you should make sure you really did understand what was going on in the book or at least research on what autism or mental retardation, or whatever conclusion you came up with was, before actually sticking with it. Once you reach the end of the book, it becomes clear to the reader. Everything that happened was the result of a traumatizing experience the boy had. Trauma isn't the same as autism, nor is autism the same as mental retardation. :)

Catherine Basallote well... i like the debate here..

Jovani I disagree. It's obvious you've probably never studied psychology. The type of mental trauma he went through matched perfectly with his odd personality and behaviors. Maybe you think it is so unfathomable that Charlie had any friends, because YOU we're mean in high school. I knew kids like Charlie and they had friends that they could relate to, just as Charlie did. I do agree with you on the whole hippie/90's era not lining up however.

message 43: by Leon (last edited Feb 17, 2013 09:38AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Leon RE Okay, maybe it's not unrealistic for the guy to have friends, but if you're going to write a book on social isolation, make the guy socially isolated for goodness sake. Charlie's already got everything a normal teen already has. Not even many "normal" people in HS get to make out with their crush. I actually put the book down after a few pages. It depressed me that this guy had an easier life than me.

Brandon Leon wrote: "Okay, maybe it's not unrealistic for the guy to have friends, but if you're going to write a book on social isolation, make the guy socially isolated for goodness sake. Charlie's already got every..."

You were molested?

Emelia This book has a lot to do with accepting people for who they are. That, I think, is the beauty of it. Sure, yous could call Charlie weird, but he had suffered through a traumatic childhood. Many of the things that happen to the characters in the book happen to average teenagers today because of issues with relationships, friendships, drugs, ect. That makes this book easy to relate to and even helpful for teens.

message 46: by Arti (new) - added it

Arti I really didn't like this book, but I have to agree with others when they say that your review is just unnecessarily judgmental. Though, a lot of the fans of this book are a little bit too crazy defensive. Everyone needs to chill out - we all have our own opinions.

message 47: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Walcott I respect your review, but I slightly disagree with some of the things you said in it. I do believe that this book is realistic because it deals with serious problems many people face all the time. We are understanding Charlie's world from his point of view. He is telling the reader about his experiences. If you were to write things based on what you see it would probably sound weird to the outside world. Charlie's part as a wallflower is not just to be a shy kid, but he is an observer of the people around him. He notices how they act and determines if they are happy or not. I feel like in real life Charlie can get a girl like Sam because in this point in time even though someone may be older it does not make them untouchable. Overall, I do agree with some clear points you stated in this review.

message 48: by Alex (new) - added it

Alex Duffy You're entitled to your own opinion however I was just as awkward and weird. I related very much to this character and just as he did I stumbled through the same situations. I agree it's unlikely but I wouldn't assume it's impossible because it does happen as I am proof of this. Especially if you're a "good looking kid".

message 49: by Cat (new)

Cat Just so you know the book was actually written in the 90s. I find it funny how you assume the worst of kids though. Although it was probable that kids would have made fun of him, and it was implied that they did, teens as well do have moral. (Charlie did say that since he had been hanging around with Patrick that no one had bothered him) I would also like to say that Charlie's life style isn't unrealistic as I find my self also spending much of my time reading and Talking to a therapist. I am a writer like Charlie, and as you might know, the brilliant people are often the ones considered weird, which is shown in the book. And if I had met Charlie, like Sam did, I would not have "stayed away" as you said Sam would have in real life. Although Charlie is what you would call weird, i dont think the author made Sam out to be that shallow. I'm sorry that I'm so upset over things that aren't even real, but I am like Charlie in many ways and I just want you to know that, so you can be sure that the story was in no way unrealistic.

message 50: by Cat (new)

Cat And if you truly believe what you said in that review, you obviously didn't understand the novel.

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