I finally caught up with the rest of the world and read The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Generally, I am not a fan of “coming-to-age” books because the voice never feels authentic to me, and I rarely make a connection to the protagonist. However, the way Chbosky formats the novel as letters written throughout the school year felt real. I loved the pacing of the book and the narrator/protagonist, Charlie, is a lovable and ignorantly mischievous character to follow. Most of all, I loved his older friend Patrick. Struggling with a clandestine gay relationship with the star football player, Patrick is accepting and paternal towards Charlie. These characters’ transformations were my favorite to follow in the book, despite other interesting characters such as Sam (Patrick’s sister and Charlie’s love interest) and Bill (Charlie’s not-too-realistic but still intriguing English teacher).
The syntax bothered me a bit–it was choppy at the sake of feeling authentic. At times the writing was unclear. For example, I completely missed the “big reveal” in the epilogue at the end. It wasn’t until I read a synopsis afterward that I understood what happened (pro-tip: closely read this part!). However, the plot overall was enough to keep me hooked until the end. The Perks of Being a Wallflower isn’t one of my favorite books, but was definitely enjoyable and I’m glad I read it. The variety of characters and (at times) racy content kept me engaged during the few “slow” points. This book can definitely appeal to a wide range of readers from middle school to adulthood. In no way does it promote the sexual, abusive, or drug-related content, but maturely discusses these multi-faceted issues that young adults often encounter. Another concern I have is that it feels dated. Published in 1999 and set in the 1991-1992 academic year, I worry today’s students won’t understand the climate of the early 90’s or many of the interesting pop culture references. Do students know who The Smiths are anymore? This rhetoric may be lost on some readers.
In short, I can see why The Perks of Being a Wallflower has been an influential book for many of my friends and students. Overall, I do recommend the book, especially for young adults. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but look forward to watching Emma Watson play Sam as soon as possible.
“So, I guess we are here 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.”
Up next: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie