I read this book a year ago on a recommendation from a good friend. I did not know what I was getting into. It has 213 pages and measures about 7 x 5, which makes for a nice, compact book. It is an epistolary novel, in the form of letters from a person that we’ll call Charlie to a person that we’ll call the reader for lack of a better name, and the narrative fits the story quite well.
If you’re the type of person who likes to watch the movie after reading the book… The Perks of Being a Wallflower film stars Logan Lerman as Charlie and Emma Watson as Sam and will be released in September of 2012. I will admit I’m excited to see it, because my favorite minor character, Bill, is being played by Paul Rudd, who is one of my favorite actors.
The story focuses on Charlie, a boy of 15 who is going to be in high school soon, which causes him anxiety. He doesn’t have a lot of friends, partly because his best friend recently committed suicide, and the girl that hung out with them has changed a lot to fit into the high school ‘scene.’
Charlie does manage to make a few new friends… Sam and Patrick and a few people they hang out or party with. Charlie is introduced to drinking, drugs, sex, and lots of great music through these friends. He also connects with his AP English teacher, Bill, who recommends many books that help set the tone of the novel, the most obvious being Catcher in the Rye, which I think heavily influenced Perks.
There is so much in this book that feels personal to me that it is a little difficult to review. I thought that perhaps on the second reading, in light of what is revealed in the epilogue, I wouldn’t like the book as much. It surprised me then that I enjoyed it even more than the first time. I find Charlie and the typical teen angst and self-pity he experiences relatable. This is a quiet book, though Charlie learns a lot and manages to grow throughout. It is a great story about going through high school freshman year as a wallflower, which I know I can relate to.
The epistolary style helps break up the novel, and makes the ‘average every day’ high school life seem less routine. It’s a relatively quick read, only in page number though, because the emotional roller coaster I feel when I read this book make it seem so much longer, so much larger a narrative. I only have one problem with the novel, and I can’t really share it because it would be a pretty big spoiler. Overall, though, the story and characters work really well and I would absolutely recommend it. However, note that you should be in the right mind set when you read it… Charlie is truly a self-pity machine, a wallflower, an inactive soul. If you can’t empathize, you might have trouble enjoying his character.
I find that The Perks of Being a Wallflower is really quotable because Charlie has profound thoughts and Chbosky writes them brilliantly simple. While I could throw in dozens of my favorite quotes from the book, I will leave you with just one:
“It’s kind of like when you look at yourself in the mirror and you say your name. And it gets to a point where none of it seems real. Well, sometimes, I can do that, but I don’t need an hour in front of a mirror. It happens very fast, and things start to slip away. And I just open my eyes, and I see nothing. And then I start to breathe really hard trying to see something, but I can’t.” – Charlie