Stephen Chbosky’s novel THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER confirmed several of my literary theories.
My first theory is that belonging to a book group enriches a person’s reading enjoyment. Other members often have insights that either reaffirm your ideas or make you look at the material in a new light. Belonging to a group also stretches you. I have overlooked the perks of being a wallflower, thinking that it was a piece of teenage fluff, but it was the Friday Book Group at the Centre County Library’s choice for the month and I felt obligated.
The second belief, and this is one that is getting stronger, is that some of the best new writers are writing for young people. The Book Thief is high on my list of favorite books, as are The Giver series and The Hunger Games. These all have an insight that has become lacking in most of the “adult” best sellers.
Also, I have found that “banned” books are frequently worth checking. It always intrigues me why some books make the list. It seems that too many times it is because the author spoke a truth that is unpopular or that it contains honest language. The perks of being a wallflower has been on the banned list for both reasons.
Through letters written to an unnamed person, Charlie shares his fear of starting high school and the fact that he does not fit in with any of the groups. His older brother is at Penn State and his sister is a senior at the high school. Although his parents are very nice people, they are not aware that Charlie is so alone.
At a football game, Charlie takes his teacher’s advice to “ participate” more and starts a conversation with seniors Patrick and his step-sister Sam. The two of them take Charlie under their wing and soon he has friends and the complications that go with relationships.
This is a strong coming-of-age book. Charlie is very bright and has the ability to stand back observing what he sees. These are not traits that would make him popular with his contemporaries. It does give the reader a chance to travel the road through high school. The journey that includes first dates, family problems, drugs, sex,suicide, and never feeling truly connected to any of it.
I am so glad that I read the perks of being a wallflower. The characters were so well done. The author has the ability to make even secondary characters well rounded. Each one of them would be worthy of his or her own sequel, But please, I hope that never happens; sequels have a way of watering down the original.
The author made the correct choice in telling the story through Charlie’s voice. His thoughts on the great books that his English teacher, Bill, assigned as extra readings were perceptive. So were his comments on the actions of his fellow students.On senior prank day, Charlie could not understand what filling the school swimming pool with grape Kool-aid had to do with graduating.
Stephen Chbosky did an excellent job of portraying the trials and loneliness of being a teenager. This book should be required reading, along with Catcher in the Rye, by any teenager as well as anyone who wants to better understand that difficult time of life.
Consider it for your reading list, but be aware that it does contain some language and situations that might be controversial.