Reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky was like reading a present version of a J.D. Salinger or Jack Kerouac novel. Sure, this may sound cliche, but it is quite obvious just who must have inspired Chbosky as a writer.
Chbosky’s debut and sole novel has a rare quality to it. The novel is real, honest, and has a keen insight into life as a teenager that reflects not just on the early nineties, but on any time frame later on (or perhaps earlier). Written in epistolary form, Wallflower follows Charlie as he navigates life as a teenager and dealing with death, love, sex, drugs, alcohol, and abuse.
This novel is memorable and can easily become a reader’s favourite read.
“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. This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
This is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, andThe Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.
Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up.”
What I loved the most about this book is how unassuming it is. It tells the reader the barest of details, but offers so much more.
1. I really wish I could say there are no negatives, but I have to follow my rule of always finding something off-putting about a novel. One of the problems I have with Chbosky is how slow and sometimes tedious his novel feels.
2. Charlie is such an interesting boy who is privy to nearly everything, hence his given name “The Wallflower”, so I was left frustrated at times when I wasn’t told more about a topic or what is going on around Charlie. I guess this is one of the pitfalls of reading an epistolary novel (and why I’m not the greatest fan, see my review of The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe here). We, as readers, are limited to what the writer of the letter/journal entry sees, hears, or experiences, rather than reading about every minute detail or beyond the narrator’s point of view.
1. Chbosky manages to capture the troubles of young adulthood so honestly that it goes beyond mortification (about sex, drugs, and other taboo subjects), and delves into the truth of high-school and what it is to be a teenager.
2. Charlie reads a lot of books that reflect on what he experiences throughout the novel. Chbosky manages to tell us so much about his character via the books he likes to read, that I was in awe of his ingenuity.
3. Three words: Funny, Sad, Real. For me, as I devoured page after page, these three words defined my initial reactions to Charlie’s life every time he encountered something new. I think it’s a gift to be able to create something so powerful, yet elicit such a response from readers.
4. I can honestly say that this book was not predictable for me. Unlike some people I talked to, the ending was pretty clear to me, but only when I reached it. For some, you may have to read it again to catch the gist of what is going on and why Charlie is the way he is. The ending is powerful and breathtaking, despite the horrible realization that the characters experience.
5. I can’t state enough how much I love Chbosky for exploring such a touchy subject. He weaves a web that ensnares his readers and plays with them by keeping those around charlie at a slight distance, so that it is mainly just the reader and Charlie, (because honestly, who else can the reader trust in this novel but Charlie?), until the pivotal end. Chbosky shows the aftereffects of a serious moment in Charlie’s life that changes him forever, without actually stating it or alluding to it until the very end.
6. When Charlie realizes how infinite simple moments can be, I found myself relating and figuring out how my own life had similar moments. I liked that Chbosky made me reflect on my own life as I read Charlie’s tale.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is definitely one of those books I will keep on my bookshelf and re-read when I want to be enlightened. Chbosky is a wonderful storyteller, it’s really too bad he’s only written one book.
I give Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower: