The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
Charlie is entering high school with the standard onslaught of worries, concerns, and anxieties about fitting in with general society, but he finds refuge by watching from the sidelines as others participate in life. He has a rough history following him around – the recent suicide of his close friend, a stay in the hospital after his favorite aunt died – and add to the quirks that make him obviously not “normal.” Fortunately, he runs into some other “outcasts” who gladly accept all his quirks into their circle of friends. So Charlie spends his first year of high school watching his friends come to terms with growing up and coping with the difficulties in all the standard and illicit ways, watching his family struggle and fight and ignore the same secrets they always avoid, and trying to participate in life. His status as a wallflower gives him a unique perspective for understanding the actions of others and removing himself from the situation as necessary, but attempting to participate in life brings on both the infinite happiness and unbearable suffering that comes with living.
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is a novel written in the form of letters to a “friend” who will “understand.” Coming from the personal perspective of letters from the main character, it is so easy to empathize with what Charlie is going through, whether discovering new friendships and crushes, providing comfort to those who are struggling, or suffering the consequences of a poor decision. As a young adult novel covering standard young adult issues, it is highly relatable. It’s is an excellent book for the intended audience (young adults), but having read it in high school and again now, I feel I understand it much better as a slightly older young adult. This book covers some very dark issues, and though the standard high school experience is generally relatable, there is a sort of wisdom and deeper understanding that comes with the maturity of having moved past adolescence, “the popular crowd,” and all that other crap. It is great to read at any point, but a little time makes a big difference.