The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

First Paragraph: August 25, 1991 Dear friend,

I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn’t try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have. Please don’t try to figure out who she is because then you might figure out who I am, and I really don’t want you to do that. I will call people by different names or generic names because I don’t want you to find me. I didn’t enclose a return address for the same reason. I mean nothing bad by this. Honest.

Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows Charlie, a nervous and unique teenager, through his freshman year of high school. It’s a simple premise, but this novel is about so much more than high school. It’s about what it means to live the life you want, to care for others, to push boundaries, and to belong, at any point in life, for any member of any generation. It isn’t about sugar coating some experiences or over exaggerating others. It’s simply the life of a boy used to observing others, and how he comes to “participate” in life, and furthermore, why “participating” is even a necessity.

That's not just a river, it's my tears

Okay, I got really serious there for a little bit, but if you just spent the last few hours of your life dripping tears all over a book I’m sure you might get a little serious too. The Perks of a Wallflower isn’t the sort of novel where you cry because things are sad, but where you cry because it’s beautiful. It’s amazing that Chbosky was able to write in an unconventional style and format, while conveying a depth of emotion and profound observation that some people might think is only possible through use of words like ‘austerity’ and ‘desultory’.

If I hadn’t read the note at the beginning of the novel about it being a work of fiction I would have pegged it as a memoir. Each person and thing that happens in the novel is scary authentic. I didn’t have to spare any mental effort to picture the scenes in the novel. I still wonder if Chbosky has duped us all by writing a memoir and calling it fiction. As I was reading I even started to worry about characters, I worried that Charlie might not make friends in his sophomore year, and I worried about his grandfather getting sick, and I worried that his mom might get too sad now that two of her children would be off to college.

I'm sorry I killed you...

The best thing about this novel, is that it lets you bring it with you. No, I don’t mean that since the novel is fairly thin and slight you can sandwich it between your textbooks, or fit it easily into your purse—though I’m sure you can. I mean that it inspires you about life, it forces you to strip away all the dreary boring things about living that can drag you down, and reminds you of that day where you sat alone somewhere, anywhere, and how someone came over and talked to you, and how that small gesture could lift your spirits for 12 hours at least. The worst thing about this novel is that I may have killed a tree since I had to use one tissue to blow my nose, and another to wipe my tears. In short, I find it basically impossible to find fault in the novel.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Coming of Age, Romance, YA Fiction

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