In a series of letters, sixteen year old “wallflower” Charlie writes about the slow, stumbling, and sometimes scary transition from adolescence to adulthood. His letters detail important milestones such as first dates, making friends, doing drugs, and attending screenings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Constantly second-guessing himself and filled with confusion and anxiety, Charlie observes the world around him with a perspective vastly different from the average teenage boy.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of those books that I’ve been hearing about for years, but never actually got around to reading. The first twenty pages or so were a bit confusing. I struggled a bit settling in to this novel because I was trying to hard to figure it out. The first question I had was, “Who is Charlie writing these letters to?” This question could have spoiled my enjoyment of the book, but thankfully I was able to put it out of my mind and allow myself to become emerged in Charlie’s adolescent world.
It is impossible to read this novel without drawing parallels to one’s own teenage years, and I think that is part of the brilliance of Chbosky’s story. There is something about Charlie’s desperate longing make friends and fit in that resonates with everyone. Even if you never had a teenage experience with drugs, or alcohol, or death, there is an underlying current running through this novel that resonates with the awkward teenager in all of us. In this way, Chbosky evokes empathy within his readers without ever resorting to emotional manipulation.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a simple story told in a complex and compelling manner. There is a timelessness to the novel, it deals with the same issues that have plagued adolescents for centuries. I felt by turns thrilled, depressed, manic, and confused as I took a journey with Charlie into the heart of darkness that is the teenage psyche.
My rating: 4/5