The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Stephen Chbosky

So, the first thing to say is that the reason that I gained this was book was due to my ‘book snob,’ attributes (yes, again!) Temptation to see the film, and yet knowing I would want to read the book first, led to be gaining a copy for Christmas (from my wonderful mother) and sitting down to read. I read this book snuggled in the car back up to my chilly student, life in Stoke-on-Trent. It took me a while to make a decision on this book, however I definitely thought it deserved a review and therefore here it is. Enjoy fellow bookworms!

One of the delightful points is the front cover is beautiful. Covered in handwritten quotes from the book it really represents the concept of the entire book. Told in a series of letters the book follows Charlie, a freshman embarking on his first year at high school. Slightly introverted and fragile, Charlie is embarking on a new stage of his life and he is scared. Although I have never read Sallinger’s The Catcher in the Rye,’ apparently the book embodies and parallels the writing style and it can be seen throughout. Chbosky’s novel is noticeably a story about growing up, showing the difficulties of life, the highs and lows, the difficulties of fitting in, and the agonising decisions that come with becoming a teenager. The form of the book is brilliantly fitting; written to ‘a friend’ who we never learn the identity of, we learn that Charlie is desperate to note his experiences down and tell them to a person that has no concept of who he is. The joy of it is that we as the reader become part of the story; we are the one that Charlie has decided to confide in, and as we read on and listen to the story we become more and more involved.

The main starting point for the story appears when we learn that a friend of Charlie’s has committed suicide; Charlie appears to panic and being socially awkward and feeling unsupported as he Michael was his sole friend, he befriends two seniors; Patrick and his step-sister Sam. After an awkward moment where Charlie believes that they are dating, the two welcome Charlie into their circle of friends and set him on the road of growing up. Throughout the letters we learn of Charlie and his life in his first year at high school including the bullies, his first kiss, his first experience with alcohol and drugs (and his second and third and…) and his overwhelming crush on the lovely Sam. The letter are also tinged with Charlie’s abilities at school including his writing skills that are developed by the teacher Bill that takes a shine to Charlie and encourages him to read more classics and develop his writing skills through essays. As we continue through the story we learn more about Charlie and his need to please and be accepted leading him to become vulnerable in a number of situations. I often felt maternal over Charlie and wished that he would find strength through his friends and supportive family in which to let go. However, as we continue later in the book he remains unable, and after a particularly distressing meeting with Sam, Charlie suffers a breakdown, in which we see him at his most vulnerable.

So, the story is brilliant, but what about the style? Honestly I couldn’t gush more about the way in which this book is written. It has a kitsch feel that wraps around you and transports you into Charlie’s world of hope and unfamiliarity. At no point does it lose its feel or lose its sincerity and that is extremely important when writing in a certain approach. Additionally, the story is enriched via Charlie writing about his philosophical thoughts, mainly discussing his life. Charlie will often discuss a basic thought, and pull in different emotions, ideas and stories, and yet then he will backtrack and change his mind or opinion. It is through this paragraphs that Charlie appears most like the wallflower that he is. It is the littler things that mostly allow us to relate Charlie’s story to real life; for example the paranoid thoughts when going to a party, and the guilt that can occur when learning things about your siblings. Throughout the story we see Charlie moving between his need to be a wallflower and his need to participate in the life that he has been given; the constant struggle that Charlie faces only epitomises the entire concept of the story. Throughout the story we see Charlie continue to learn and express and participate until he is ready to leave us (the friend) and become his own person. Personally, I would highly recommend this book. It has a quirky, yet real and honest feel that only makes you feel closer to the characters. It also confronts a number of different issues faced by young teenagers and explains and faces up to them directly. Give it a read; you will be pleasantly surprised.