Peter's Reviews > The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
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Dec 16, 15

really liked it
bookshelves: young-adult, read-2012
Read from September 18 to 19, 2012

This is a YA classic. It's very short and I read it in a day. It's an epistolary novel set in 1991. 15 year old 'Charlie' writes letters about his life and posts them to a stranger (the reader) because he 'just needs to know that someone out there listens'. He's an odd and lonely kid - a wallflower - who spends his time observing the world rather than being part of it. That is, until he meets Sam and Patrick, two older, outsider-cool, kids at his school who are step-brother and step-sister and who make it their mission to bring Charlie out of his shell and introduce him to a wider world.

In Charlie, his sensitive and highly observant narrator, Stephen Chbosky perfectly captures the difficulties everyone feels as a teenager from awkwardly negotiating social situations, to working out who you are compared to others and what you really want for yourself. I could really relate to Charlie through all of his school travails and in many ways he reminded me of my teenage self - of that exact same era! Unlike some reviewers I did not think that Charlie was autistic or dysphasic. I just think there are a couple of bad authorial choices that maybe suggest this, and the fact that the reader is forced to fill in so many blanks to explain things does not help either.

SPOILERS...

As the novel goes on Chbosky piles more and more serious problems on Charlie. Charlie is in therapy. He's depressed, anxious, and highly emotional (he cries on every page). He has to deal with a friends suicided and with his family, who on the surface seem normal but underneath are in deep denial about the present and their history. Finally, Charlie has to face some issues from his own past that are effecting his life. All these things are big challenges that deserve more in-depth drama and resolution, but because Charlie is our highly unreliable narrator and because he doesn't want to deal with them in his cheery letters, we are forced to skim over them too. What's left is Charlie's day to day life which by the end of the novel has become banal in comparison to all the things under the surface. The problem is most evident in the short shrift given to the ending, a reveal that nearly made me throw the book across the room. All that aside, in terms of teenage voices, to me Charlie is the closest to real I have ever read.
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09/18/2012
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