Title: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Author: Stephen Chbosky
Genre: Young adult, Coming-of-age
Published: February 1999 by MTV Books
Recommended for ages 14 and up
Source: Lent by a friend
WHAT’S THE BOOK ABOUT?
Here’s a description from the publisher:
Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective…but there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a story about what it’s like to travel that strange course through the uncharted territory of high school. The world of first dates, family dramas, and new friends. Of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Of those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.
WHAT DID I THINK OF THE BOOK?
I only read it because a friend lent me the book. And so, out of curiosity on what all the fuss and controversy was about, I did. I hadn’t seen the movie either, so I was pretty much caught off guard with several events in Charlie’s life. Honestly, the book blurb did not prepare me for much (if not all!) of its content 😯 .
The story was told by a teenager named Charlie. I liked the format of how the story was told. It was presented as a series of letters to an unnamed friend of Charlie’s. I also liked that it didn’t use big or flowery words (I also echo Charlie’s sentiment about using such words). The title comes from a comment by his friends that he is like a wallflower. He sees things, hears things, but if you ask him not to tell anyone or he doesn’t see the relevance in telling anyone, then he doesn’t. “You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand” – that’s what his friends said about him. Charlie himself wasn’t your typical run-of-the-mill guy. He had a handful of personal and emotional issues, but he really tried his best to face them head on.
While reading his story, I smiled, I laughed, I was shocked, I felt angry, I got sad. I even understood and related to some of his observations and thoughts about life. I really felt sorry for Charlie; for all the awful and ghastly things he went through. But I also felt happy for him. I was happy that his parents and siblings really loved him, his friends truly cared for him, that they all stood by him through thick and thin.
There were several quotes that caught my fancy and here are some of them:
- “So, what’s the point of using words nobody else knows or can say comfortably? I just don’t understand that.” – Charlie
- “Charlie, we accept the love we think we deserve.” – Bill
- “I just think it’s bad when a boy looks at a girl and thinks that the way he sees the girl is better than the girl actually is.” – Charlie
- “… But because things change. And friends leave. And life doesn’t stop for anybody.” – Charlie
- “I think the idea is that every person has to live for his or her own life and then make the choice to share it with other people. Maybe that is what makes people ‘participate.'” – Charlie
- “And that was that. Bill didn’t try to make sure that I would see him next year if I needed anything. He didn’t ask me why I was crying. He just let me hear what he had to say in my own way and let things be. That was probably the best part.” – Charlie
- “But after a while, I didn’t do things because I didn’t want him to think different about me. But the thing is, I wasn’t being honest. So, why would I care whether or not he loved me when he didn’t really even know me?” – Sam
- “So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.” – Charlie
- “We didn’t talk about anything heavy or light. We were just there together. And that was enough.” – Charlie
- “So, if this does end up being my last letter, please believe me that things are good with me, and even when they’re not, they will be soon enough.” – Charlie
HALT! WHO GOES THERE? It’s generally recommended for ages 14 and up. Fair warning, dear readers. There was a lot of mature content in this book. Some violence, suicide, abortion, abuse, a lot of drinking, smoking, swearing, drugs, sex… Yup, the whole nine yards indeed. And I really must warn you, the references to sex can be quite graphic. I can understand why this book is a subject of controversy.
TO WRAP IT UP…
To be honest, I wouldn’t have read this book at all if a friend hadn’t recommended and lent it to me. I was curious about all the fuss surrounding the book, but not curious enough to buy it myself or even borrow it. At any rate, if you can get over the mature content and go about reading the story objectively, it really wasn’t such a bad read. I liked the style of the narrative, but I wouldn’t go as far as say it was a great book either. For me, it was just somewhere in the middle.
I think it was a tale of learning how to deal with your life — happiness, sadness, tragedy and all. It’s about learning to lean on your friends and family, reaching out to them, trusting that they will be there for you through the best and worst, and standing up for what you believe in. The story ended as well as it could have, and though I felt really sorry for Charlie, I also felt glad for him. I sincerely wish everyone who had terribly tough times in their lives had a good and unwavering support system like he had.