The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is one of my favourite books for many many reasons. I read it about 3 years ago when I was in my last year of secondary school. I read it along with The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and wrote my “dissertation” (technically what it was called but it was only about 4,000 words long) on them.
Some books stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page and, for me, The Perks of Being a Wallflower was one of those books. It was the first book I ever cried my eyes out at (despite everyone calling me heartless for not crying at Rue’s death in The Hunger Games).
Charlie is an introverted adolescent boy just starting high school in America. Throughout the book, which is written in epistolary (letter) form from Charlie’s perspective, we slowly start to understand the somewhat unusual way Charlie sees the world. He is incredibly passive and, in many situations, goes completely unnoticed by other characters, simply witnessing other people’s lives and never really living his own. Patrick, one of the other main characters, remarks on this at a party and says:
“He’s a wallflower. You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.”
This is, of course, where the book gets it’s name. After befriending Patrick and Sam Charlie begins to grow in confidence and his letters become more positive. The book explores many topics such as abuse, sexuality, mental illness and the role of authority in young people’s lives.
Ultimately the exploration of all of these themes boils down to one overarching message, which Chbosky puts very succinctly:
“We accept the love we think we deserve.”
This line struck me because, at least in my opinion, it is largely true. I know so many people who have allowed themselves to be treated badly due to low self esteem. When Charlie reiterates his teacher’s poignant words to Sam there is a kind of quiet clarity. The entire purpose of the novel becomes apparent and all of the different character’s stories are put into perspective.
Chbosky’s writing is simple, easy to understand and almost child like at points. His art, however, lies in his subtlety and his ability to write an enamouring, emotionally driven novel.
I can’t write a review on the book without mentioning the movie. The script was written and directed by Chbosky, which means it remains very true to the book. The film is incredibly nostalgic, as is the book, referencing old TV shows, songs and films throughout. It is, of course, set in the 90’s so the fashion is always eye catching (if at some points questionable). The sets are colourful and traditionally American which, even if you’re not from America, adds a sense of familiarity.
Lastly, the casting of the film could not have been better. You may not know this yet but Emma Watson may be my favourite human on earth, so as soon as I found out she was going to be in the film I was SOLD. Logan Lerman played Charlie with the nuance and emotional complexity that was necessary for the role and I can’t imagine anyone else playing the part. Ezra Miller, who played Patrick, has been known for his impressive performances in other films like “We Need To Talk About Kevin” and he proved his diversity as an actor in this film, portraying sweet-natured yet exuberant Patrick perfectly.
Well I think that’s just about all I have to say for now (other than if you haven’t read this book GO READ IT NOW). I hope you enjoyed this and thank you for reading. Comment below if you also love this book or want to suggest any other books I might like 🙂
Until next time,