Friday, July 5, 2013

The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky

The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky
Published: February 1999 by MTV Books
Source: I read my daughter's copy of the book

Publisher's Summary:
Charlie is a freshman.

And while he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.

Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can't stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

a : a person who from shyness or unpopularity remains on the sidelines of a social activity (as a dance)
b : a shy or reserved person  

My Thoughts:
Fifteen-year-old Charlie is just beginning his freshman year of high school, a month after the suicide of his best friend, when he begins writing letters to an anonymous person, one he doesn't really know. Charlie is an extremely intelligent but extremely troubled young man who appears to suffer from schizophrenia, although that is never stated. Charlie is not close to his parents, brother or sister although he would like to be; they don't seem to understand him. When two seniors befriend Charlie and a teacher takes a special interest in him, Charlie is encouraged to begin experiencing life.

The Perks of Being A Wallflower is extremely popular with young people for having the courage to address very heavy subjects (molestation, sex, drug and alcohol use, rape) through the eyes of a teenager. By addressing these issue through an emotionally naive Charlie, Chobsky is able to look at these issues from a teenagers point of view in an unusual light. While Charlie observes things, he doesn't, as his friend Patrick says of him at one point "understand things."

This slim novel attempts to deal with a great many subjects, perhaps too many. And, to be honest, sometimes Charlie's voice really got on my nerves; it very often felt like he was much younger. Still, my heart often ached for Charlie and his friends. I understand why so many people love this book. It speaks to young people in a way that few books do, about subjects so many people try to shield them from when they are, every day, surrounded by them.


  1. I thought it was a good book but also with the hesitations you describe. I thought the ending was a bit much but they handled it better in the movie version, in my opinion. But still a great book to talk to teens with. Glad you enjoyed it overall.

  2. We recently read this for book club and one of the biggest criticisms was the authenticity of Charlie's voice. For me it was the big reveal at the ending--it felt too out of nowhere and like you mentioned there were already so many topics that it felt like one.more.thing. I do wish I had read this as a teen, though. Is Miss H interested at all?

  3. I've been meaning to read my daughter's copy of this one for years... thanks for reminding me!

  4. I wonder if this is like Catcher in the Rye, best when read young. I admire books like this, but I think I would find it tough to read. Interesting review, though.

  5. I enjoyed this book quite a bit when I read it. Mainly, because I didn't expect to like it at all. But I can't seem to remember much about it now. I have no desire to see the movie though. I think this is a book my son could appreciate. He's so picky when it comes to YA books. So many of them are too childish for him.

  6. I read this very recently and followed it immediately with the movie - well done. I enjoyed (if you can call it that?) and don't think it suffered too much from the 'too much!' because, face it, the kids these days DO have to think through way too much. I thought the movie and the book read a good experience.