The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky

October 29, 2011
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I stumbled across this book first from (can you get any more 21st-century?) a tweet. I believe it was from the organization To Write Love on Her Arms. They often tweet inspirational quotes, and I follow their tweets because I truly believe in their cause; bringing hope and help to those struggling with depression, addiction, and suicide. This particular tweet was a bit more ambiguous than their usual, but it went like this: “She wasn’t bitter. She was sad though. But it was a hopeful kind of sad. The kind of sad that just takes time.”
It stuck with me. I felt a connection to it. In so many ways, I knew that I felt like this girl, whoever they were describing (I would later find out the exact context). And I was happy about it, because I too have faith in the future, even though everything right now is not ideal. So I searched the quote online to find out who said it or where it came from—and there it was: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky. I had heard of this book before, but never thought much of it. But I could only remember hearing good reviews, so I decided to put it on hold at the local library. Within a few days, I had the book in my hands. And I could not stop to put it down. That may sound cliché, but believe me. Typically, I am the girl who checks out three books at once, barely reads them, and then ends up having to return them because they are egregiously overdue. If that doesn’t tell you that this book is worth your time, I do not know what will.
Besides the fact that this book is excellent in itself, it is also an incredibly easy read. I was somewhat surprised to find this book in the “Young Adult” section of the library due to some of its content (sex, drugs, etc), but I finally accepted the fact that the language was not difficult enough to merit the regular “Adult” section. Nonetheless, do not let that dissuade you from reading this book. I refuse to believe that this book was written only for readers at the pre-teen level. It is not a book written simply to demonstrate superior language skills, or to teach them. Instead, it is a book of substance and poignancy. The beauty is in what Chobsky writes, not how he writes it.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower tells the story of a boy named Charlie. The format of the book is in letters that Charlie writes to an anonymous someone throughout his freshman year in high school. In addition to the reader not knowing to whom the letters are addressed, Chobsky also denies us the real names of characters within the book. The advantage Chobsky has in using this format is that we see the world through Charlie’s eyes, not through an omniscient narrator who can tell us what Charlie is thinking. It is far closer than that. In some ways we know less about Charlie’s life and the people in it, but we know far more about Charlie himself. His letters are at times painfully honest and overly revealing, but that only adds to the reader relationship with Charlie. The reader becomes Charlie instead of merely observing him.
Charlie is above all an offbeat character. He befriends two seniors at a football game; Sam and Patrick. Sam and Patrick are step-siblings. Patrick is gay and Sam is the girl who Charlie falls in love with. He also becomes close with his English teacher, Bill, who gives him special attention as an English student and is one of the few people in Charlie’s life who acknowledges him as unique in a good way. Throughout the book, Charlie describes his relationships with people throughout the year and how they change and affect him. Do not think that this book is all about being sad; perhaps the greatest part of this book is in an instant of joy, when Charlie describes being in the car with Sam and Patrick and feeling “infinite.” But I will admit that there is a prevalent up and down cycle; sometimes Charlie is overjoyed, and other times he is very depressed. He describes most of all how things make him feel, but only realizes towards the end that he has the power to control many of the things that in the past have merely “happened to him.” He has the power to say “yes,” or “no.” He does not have to simply accept something the way it is. Sam, primarily, is the person who helps him come to this realization.
Come the end of the book, the readers will find out some of the reasons why Charlie is the way he is. There is some ambiguity, but overall the reader will understand and will understand deeply. Charlie’s life is messed up, but most of all The Perks of Being a Wallflower points out that just about everyone is messed up in their own unique way. To me, The Perks of Being a Wallflower points out the beauty in sadness and the opportunities that come with being unique and weird. In one of Charlie’s final letters, he says something that to me is the crux of Chobsky’s biggest idea in this book and a great representation of looking towards the future with hopeful eyes: “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.”
Finally, if you are a teenager who has ever felt hopelessly confused and at times depressed, read this book. It will make you smile, laugh, and cry, but most of all it will leave you with the realization that everyone goes through being a teenager, and that it isn’t the end—it is only the beginning.

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This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

NintaiKyouboku said...
Nov. 1, 2011 at 5:00 pm

I think this book review is well written. However, you do not make it sound interesting at all, and this is mostly due to the fact that you do not provide much info about the plot. 

Also, you told us what the "realization" at the end of the book is, so what's the point of reading it? We already know. When writing a review, you don't want to give away too much.

PinkSilverfish replied...
Nov. 1, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Thank you so so SO much for your input! :)

And you're right. The plot of this book is sort of hard to describe because of the way Chobsky formats everything. It's also hard to pinpoint a plot in this book-- not that it lacks substance, but just because so much is going on simultaneously. 

NintaiKyouboku replied...
Nov. 2, 2011 at 8:32 am

You're welcome ^_^

and in that case, maybe you could describe the main plot, and then the subplots, right, or leave one of the less important subplots out?


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