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?