the perks of being a wallflower

The novel the perks of being a wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky, was published in 1999. The movie came out in 2012. I remember the book selling very well from the time I started working at Barnes & Noble in 2000. I don’t remember how quickly, but it made its way onto the summer reading lists of several local schools. After seeing the previews for the film adaptation I finally decide to put it on my reading list.

The first clue that I would enjoy it came when I read a blurb on the back cover comparing it to A Separate Peace and Catcher in the Rye, two books also about young men passing from adolescence to adulthood. I have read these two books many times and enjoyed them. “Wallflower” gives a modern treatment to this popular theme, so it is not for everyone. Charlie, the main character, finds himself in many adult situations during the course of his story, so consider yourself forewarned.

Charlie is a high school freshman, and he struggles with all of the familiar teen problems: fitting in while staying true to yourself, finding love, and so forth. One of the most interesting parts of the book for me is Charlie’s friendship with his English teacher, Mr. Anderson. Anderson recognizes that Charlie has a gift for reading and writing, and challenges him with books that he doesn’t ask the rest of the class to read. The books he reads are mostly classics. I had read several, but some that I have not. Mr. Anderson tries in several conversations to build Charlie up. Anderson sees that Charlie is an exceptional writer, which is why he gives Charlie the extra books to read.

Charlie is different from me in that the people he hangs around with are into parties and the social scene. I was not into all that. But I identify with Charlie’s extreme sentimentality. And, like Charlie, I also tend to listen to people and take everything in that goes on around me. I have a tendency to live in my thoughts and have to make myself aware of it in order to “particpate” more. And unrequited love is something I know very well. All of the girls I had a crush on as a teenager were out of reach for me from a dating standpoint. But I have always had lots of female friends.

One of the things I enjoyed most is the way the story is told. Charlie is writing letters to an anonymous reciever who he believes will appreciate his story. This allows for more of a glimpse inside the main character than if he were telling the events of the story as they happen. As I mentioned earlier, Charlie is an astute observer of the world around him.

I will close with two of my favorite quotes from the book:

Sam: “Charlie, we accept the love we think we deserve”.

Patrick: “You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand. You’re a wallflower”. (I think this one is from the movie).

The film is a very good adaptation of the book. I am glad that Chobsky decided to write and direct the film himself so it would be faithful to the book. If coming-of-age stories are something that you typically enjoy, I recommend the book and movie to you. For those of you who have read the book and/or seen the movie, what did you think of them?


8 thoughts on “the perks of being a wallflower

  1. I’ve neither read the book nor seen the movie. I do wonder how much would I like them if I did, I can’t always relate to such type of stories.

  2. I’ve watched the movie at this point but plan to read the book. Charlie (in the movie) seemed to gravitate to these friends because they had chosen him as a friend. Maybe because of Charlie’s situation from early childhood, he didn’t have the healthiest level of self-esteem. For that reason, he was willing to be close to anyone who selected him as a friend. Either that or a more basic reason…that Charlie preferred his opposite. By the time his friends went away, the three of them had experienced so much together that they were best friends regardless of how different they were. That was my take. Otherwise, it was a little puzzling to see such a wallflower with the other two.

    • Interesting thoughts, Ansley. I’m glad you commented. My thought was that Charlie became friends with Sam and Patrick because they were among the few people who were nice to him. And Sam especially seemed to really understand Charlie.

      But I think that you are right about Charlie’s self-esteem problems making it difficult to be close to people and make friends.

      My two best friends from high school were both very outgoing, while I was more quiet and introverted. So that was familiar to me. I think with a boy like Charlie, almost everyone is outgoing in comparison.

      • Also interesting. I totally agree that Sam understood him best. The movie was very good. It was a reminder how difficult adolescence can be and how rewarding knowing there are friends who care. And that’s saying something because I think we all know how self-absorbed adolescence can be. As a teen, I gravitated to friends who were outgoing. I appreciate diversity now but find my closest friends are introverts too. A few friends seem like introverts, but they also get loud sometimes. I really get a kick out of that. The outgoing friends were probably best for Charlie. I think we’ve provided excellent interpretations. :)I’m looking forward to the book.

      • P.S. That makes perfect sense that your high school friends were both outgoing. I can see you in that scene easily. All those energy seekers need their friend who supplies their good vibes. lol 😉

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