The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Book Review

February 28, 2013 1:34 pm

Wallflower movieWhile the reviews have more or less been positive, the readers of The Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999) by Stephen Chbosky are polarised. It’s one of those ‘you’ll love it or you’ll hate it’ pieces. With a film version out (scripted and directed by the author himself) the scrutiny is on the original piece once more.

Fifteen year old Charlie is anxious about starting high-school. Since his best friend’s suicide, he doesn’t have any friends to make the experience easier. He is overly dependent on the support of his family and often takes refuge in his own mind. His new English teacher Bill tries to pull him out of his shell by giving him extra books to read and encouraging him to participate, and not just be a fly on the wall. In his attempts to do so, Charlie becomes friends with Partick – the school joker – and his stepsister Sam (Charlie’s lov

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What happens next? The geek gets pulled into the world of the cool kids, but after a while something goes wrong. They have a horrible fight, he makes up to them and then they love each other even more. Sure, you’ve read a story like this before. Even Charlie mentions that he’s changed the names of the characters. Still, what is interesting about this novel is that Charlie’s inner world is uncovered to us through a series of letters that he writes to an anonymous person disclosing the goings-on in his life and mind. Although the form tires after a while, it proves to be the appropriate vehicle for the innocent and heartfelt musings of a teenage outcast.e interest).

If any of Charlie’s quandaries and observations ring a bell, this book will prove a rewarding read (whether you are a teenager sympathising or an adult smiling encouragingly with the benefit of hindsight). Critics be damned. We all know their cynicism derives from failed dreams and missed opportunities, anyway.

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