The Perks of Being a WallflowerHot
The epistolary narrative style carries the unfortunate problem of limited or non-existent setting and physical descriptions, as readers are relegated to the pinhole perspective of the main character and sole POV, Charlie. (If not for the existence of the movie adaptation, this reader would have little to go on by way of imagery.) As Charlie puts his thoughts into letter form, it quickly becomes apparent that he is neurologically atypical. Everything about his characterization screams Asperger’s autism, but as the story takes place a decade before the spectrum became more widely recognized, readers are left to wonder over the actual cause of his social impairments.
Charlie is a generally sympathetic character who sometimes borders on pitiable. He’s a 15-year-old supposedly “gifted” freshman who has great difficulty connecting with people. (I say ‘supposedly’ because his written voice sounds more like a semi-organized 11 or 12-year-old, at about the same maturity level.) Charlie happens to fall into the good graces of a pack of party-crowd hipster seniors, who take him under their tattered and broadminded wings. Each of them is a questionably functional mess in their own way, and they are happy to draw the painfully naive Charlie into their version of reality.
Ultimately this isn't just an "issues" book, this is the kitchen sink of issues books.
I can't recall seeing so many traumas, negative coping mechanisms, and destructive behavioral patterns crammed (somewhat casually) into one plotline. Suicide, rape, domestic abuse, child molestation, depression, abortion, bullying, vehicular death, crippling anxiety, substance abuse, repressed memories, psychological breaks, anonymous gay sex, and ...*drumroll* … incest. >.> I’m pretty sure all it lacked was a terminal ailment.
The problem isn’t so much the content itself as the handling. That is to say, none of these issues end up feeling satisfactorily addressed or explored to any meaningful extent.
As far as the writing itself goes, the characterization falls a bit flat—especially in the adults. (Although one could argue this is in part due to Charlie’s perceptions, as he’s something of an unreliable narrator.) The pacing is sedate, the dialogue is unmemorable, and there isn’t much by way of an evident goal/endgame to build anticipation.
Two vaguely redeeming qualities include the fact that Charlie is actually receiving some psychological help… And toward the end, he is finally called out for simply being present to watch one of his “friends” self-destruct while passively failing to intervene in any way. But on the whole, it’s a sizable time investment that yields too little substance for this reader to be able to recommend it in good conscience.
Today, friends, I must start with a confession: I tried to read The Perks of Being a Wallflower during high school and immediately loathed and DNFed it. As such, I’ve not tried again until 2014, at least ten years after my first attempt. I also went for a format change, because I had a vague memory of the writing being a problem, and switching formats can help with that. It’s funny, because I completely understand why my teen self loathed this book, but I can also appreciate it now and admire what it’s doing on top of enjoying the story.
The writing in The Perks of Being a Wallflower probably would have been a struggle for me still, at least at the beginning. There’s a sort of Catcher in the Rye-ness to the book, but, unlike Catcher, there’s personal growth throughout the book. Perks is a full year in Charlie’s life, his freshman year of high school, and he learns a lot during that year. He grows emotionally and intellectually. For this reason, I’d say you should push through, even if you don’t like Charlie or his narration at the outset.
In case you do struggle, I highly recommend this audio version narrated by Noah Galvin. Perks is one of those books written in the way that someone talks, and so it lends itself really well to the audio format. Plus, Galvin sounds like he could be 15, which is actually a really difficult thing to find in YA audiobooks. He reads with great emotion too. This was really a perfect book for the audio format.
Charlie’s a really great and unique character, something which I couldn’t appreciate back when I tried to read it as a teen. At the time, I read a lot of romance, classics, and various adult fiction. YA wasn’t my thing, and I wasn’t used to reading about teen characters. Plus, Charlie’s a very unusual boy. He’s highly emotional and cries a lot, something I’ve never really done. I didn’t get him back then. Now, though, I’m so glad to see a book about a boy who cries, because our culture teaches guys to repress their feelings, and repression is not healthy. The novel’s all about learning to accept and understand yourself.
There were two things I didn’t like about Perks. The first is all the drug use and smoking. Realistic, sure, but also it made me uncomfortable that smoking wasn’t shown in an unflattering light. This is one of the things that I just cannot abide personally. Then there’s Sam. She’s a full-blown Manic Pixie Dream Girl, which is a term I really don’t use often. She’s got very little personality, aside from being fascinating, gorgeous, mysterious, and sexy. I’m pretty positive John Green read this book and was greatly influenced by it. Sam’s character just isn’t interesting to me, and whenever he went on and on about her, I was rolling my eyes.
The ending of The Perks of Being a Wallflower threw me for a bit of a loop. It was completely perfect and well-established by the text and at times I even wondered if something like that was coming. Still, the epilogue knocked my feet out from under me. I just am not used to epilogues containing any actual plot. Well, this one does and that plot packs a brutal punch. If you’re the sort of person who cries at books often, the epilogue should be called Sob City. It’s dark and painful, but also inspiring somehow, which is pretty damn impressive. It also brings the journey of the rest of the novel into stark relief.
The Final Verdict:
I’m sort of at a loss for what to say about this one without spoilers, so I guess I’ll just exhort you to give this book more of a chance than teen Christina did. This is a YA classic for a reason.
The novel follows Charlie, painfully shy, introspective, highly intelligent and socially awkward. He is a wallflower, watching on the outskirts while people live their lives. On the advice of his teacher, he starts putting himself in new situations, and what follows is one of the best years of his life. Charlie is introduced to a world of dating, music, drama, new friends; a world of sex, drugs, musicals and books. Charlie was content to life his life on the fringes, but now is the time for him to see what life is really all about.
Charlie was a average and elusive character. His frank discourse so often reminded me of a child, which evoked deep endearing feelings from me, at least at the beginning of the novel. The book is set from Charlie’s perspective and, considering how painfully awkward he is, the style of writing reflected that: it was astonishingly simple and the were sentences rigidly structured. It was always “This happened, and then this, and then this and now I am sad.” It is suggested that Charlies has some sort of disability, but it is never specified, so I understood the need for this particular style of writing in order to get into Charlie’s head.
It worked, at least for a while. And then it began to feel like reading this book was a chore, rather than a pleasure. The writing style grew dry very quickly and achieved the opposite desired effect. I could not connect with Charlie because I began to find him repetitive and artless. It is a shame, because I so very much wanted to like him.
Patrick and Sam felt greatly removed from the novel, despite them being Charlie’s best friends. They were present in scenes, but at the same time they were transparent characters. Sam was the clichéd next-door-neighbour type of girl that the protagonist can’t help but fall for, while Patrick was a stereotypical gay boy. They did not feel like fully-fleshed out characters, but rather like poor attempts at one. This greatly confused me, as I so enjoyed their characters in the companion film. Chbosky actually wrote the screenplay so I don’t understand how his characters could be so different. Perhaps this is also a testament to the elementary writing style.
The plot was, frankly, all over the place. I personally felt that there was a mix of too many issues and I think the book could have greatly profited from a narrow look at one or two of these issues, rather than a dozen. The result would have been a cleaner novel that would have allowed more people to emotionally connect to. It was almost like Chbosky sat down and wrote a list of all the things a stereotypical teenager from an American movie would do and included every single one of them in his novel. It was also incredibly awkward to read about these issues as Charlie, while fifteen years old, reminded me of a child.
Perhaps one of the reasons I did not enjoy this novel as much as I thought I would have was because I expected it to be exactly like the film. While the film was accurate with certain events and scenes, there were many new scenes that were included which positively affected the movie. Unfortunately, because I had watched the film, I also knew what the big reveal at the end of the novel was going to be and I was not as shocked or disturbed as I ought to have been.
Overall, I was disappointed in this novel. I expected a well-written coming-of-age novel about a socially awkward teen, but received a superficial look at teenagers and their issues instead. I can certainly see elements of a good novel in this book, and understand why many other people loved it, but I am just not part of that group.
When the novel opens Charlie is dealing with the suicide of his middle school friend Michael the year before and the death of his favourite aunt Helen, during his early childhood. Charlie befriends Patrick, an openly gay teen from his shop class, and his step sister Sam. Both are older, outsiders – but they are the cool kind of outsiders. They introduce Charlie to parties, drugs and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The novel tackles some tough issues through Charlie’s eyes including suicide, domestic violence, sexual abuse, rape, teen pregnancy, abortion, drug use, homosexuality, death of a family member, mental health.
Stephen Chbosky also wrote and directed the feature film adaptation that was released in 2012 and starred Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller.
Chbosky deals with real, impending teen issues such as sexuality, drugs abuse, suicide and teen pregnancy, just to name a few, and though he handled them reasonably well, I just felt that he was trying to cram too much into the book. The short sentences were annoying and resulted in a choppy reading experience but that wasn’t even my main problem.
I could not for the life of me, connect with our protagonist, Charlie. He grated on my nerves, plain and simple. At one point in the story, Charlie’s English teacher tells him he's the smartest person he's ever known and though Charlie has an interesting, very pure way of looking at things and seeing the world, I didn’t agree. For a supposedly super smart 15 year old, his letters were filled with the simplest language possible. There’s also the fact that he felt far too innocent for his age. Altogether, his character and voice just seemed unrealistic.
There were some really beautiful passages and quotes and I love how it got me thinking about things such as my first memory. In fact, I couldn’t wait to get back to it and read more. But Charlie? He irritated me to the extremes. But then *insert sound effects* DUN DUN DUN. I don’t why but after such a long time struggling, things with Charlie started to improve at about the half-way mark. Now, don’t go jumping to conclusions, Charlie and I aren’t friends but we’ve finally come to some sort of an understanding; a truce (or maybe it was just due to the fact that he started to grow on me?).
Despite my problem with Charlie, I liked The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I’m even looking forward to the movie, especially since the trailer looks so awesome; whether I see it in the cinemas or wait for it come out on DVD, I’ll definitely give it a watch.
Always intriguing. Never a dull moment.
I just could not stop reading the book. There were parts where I felt so distressed because of the book, but other times when it just made me feel really happy inside. I cannot recommend this book enough. GO READ IT.
This book was good but if you had to chose between this and another book i think you might have to pick the other unless that other book is a piece of poop. This book follows a guy his name in the book is "Charlie."Hes a very confused kid that goes through alot in his first year of high school. He drinks he Smokes and is having encounters with women and his friend patrick, who yes is a guy. This book captures alot of what people feel during there first year in high school. Curious as can be he does alot of things we usually don't do but can only dream of doing. This book is a wrap of emotions and events that blow you away and the ending is a shocker! I would totally recommened this to any one...... if you have time.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower was an excellent book. It was relatable and simple which made it really easy to read. I found myself wanting to see what would come next. It showed the concerns and struggles of being a teenager, such as fitting in and having friends. Instead of there being chapters, there was a series of letters written by the main character showing his experience. I really liked how you were able to see into the character's mind and see what he was thinking, how he was feeling during the instance that he is writing about. It was entertaining because you could see the events actually happening in life, it made it easy to visualize what it would be like in that situation. It was a short book and wouldn't be too time consuming to read. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in reading it.
Perks of Being a Wallflower is a story about the harsh truth of injustice and the problems some high school students face every waking moment of their life. I recommend anyone of mature age to read this book. It is very thought provoking, and in some cases it could be life changing. It tells of the ups and downs of a 15-year-old boys life and all the struggles he wrestles with in his process of discovering who he really is. It is an easy read and written in the form of diary entries from Charlie, the main character. It truly brings you inside of his thoughts and emotions, which makes the book almost impossible to put down because it is a very powerful read.
In its simplistically written form, this story has both the surprisingly complex plot and deep emotions of very well-written book. I applaud Stephen Chbosky for his ability to create a story that makes you laugh, cry, and think about what really matters in life within the few pages he has put together. This is a story that gives the reader a different look at things, or in some cases, a connection with the main character. I truly recommend this book to all mature readers. It is a great story.