The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, is a coming-of-age novel set in 1991. In the novel, the main character, Charlie, tells the story through writing letters to an imaginary friend, whose identity is never revealed. Charlie starts his first year of high school and is quickly taken in by two upperclassmen, Sam and Patrick. With his new friends, Charlie is introduced to toxic relationships and somewhat traumatic events.
This book was raw and at some points very emotional. Charlie’s diary entries contain explicit scenes, and the author does not sugarcoat any of it. Although the honesty is refreshing, the number of graphic events and detailed descriptions became overwhelming and took over the story as well as the characters.
It is unclear whether the main character, Charlie, possesses an intellectual disability or not. The author never specifically says if he does or doesn’t, but the writing provides evidence for both possibilities. We do know that Charlie had been previously hospitalized due to complications of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but that is the only information that readers are given. Charlie refers to a physiatrist, but the book also never tells the reader why. This uncertainty leaves what feels like a missing piece in the story. As a character, Charlie was slightly messy, and his character never felt clear. He also waffles between being mature, and pondering the meaning of life, to being childish and especially shallow towards his friends.
Living in the moment is an important theme throughout the book, and it is captured well in Charlie’s letters: “Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody” (Chbosky, 103). There are moments that feel magical in Charlie’s letters, and moments that are simply frustrating. Every good moment seems to be outweighed with Charlie complaining or just being awkward in general.
The book is published by Pocket Books, and ranges from $7.19-$15.99. There was also a coming of age drama film based on the novel which was released in 2012. The 250-page novel is a fast read, but it isn’t for the faint of heart. Graphic scenes and descriptions are not suitable for young readers, but other moments seem too juvenile for mature readers. Overall, the book seemed to leave many important questions unanswered, but it also has great potential to positively influence readers.