The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
by Stephen Chbosky

Charlie is an intelligent, sensitive boy who is about to begin his freshman year in high school. His awkward nature makes it difficult for him to make new friends. This coming-of-age novel is written as a series of letters to an unknown recipient.

The first time I read this book I was an 18-year-old college freshman. It was the first book ever recommended to me by a new friend and ten years later she’s still a close friend. I’m not saying it’s because of this book, but it certainly was a good sign of things to come.

Now that I’m older and farther from the innocent days of high school I was nervous that it would lose some of its magic upon rereading. Everything is so intense when you’re young. Each moment can feel like either the best or worst in our short life. Songs have the potential to change you forever and love is a completely new concept. As you get older things often don’t have the same impact as they did when you were young.

I shouldn’t have worried though, the second time around the book was just as powerful as before, but in a different way. It made me nostalgic for those thrilling nights when you would drive around with your friends imaging what the future might hold. It made me feel protective of Charlie and desperate for him to find happiness. Charlie is naïve and innocent, but in the best way possible. As his friendships with the beautiful Sam and kind Patrick blossom, so does his awareness of the world.

The books impact comes from the raw honesty of Chbosky’s writing. He expresses feelings and thoughts that we’ve all had, but he makes them feel brand new. The novel doesn’t shy away from serious issues. It deals with under-aged drinking, drug use, molestation, suicide, sex, depression and abusive relationships. Like I said, it deals with incredibly serious subject matter, but it does so in a delicate way. Nothing is ever done for shock value, it’s all realistic, the way life itself is. You can’t avoid things just because they are difficult to deal with and this book acknowledges that.

Rereading the book was strange in some ways. It took me back to the time when I read it ten years ago. As I near thirty the intensity of daily life is somewhat diminished, but it’s not entirely gone. There are still moments when I discover a new song or book and for a time, I feel infinite.

BOTTOM LINE: Charlie’s journey is an incredible one and it shouldn’t be missed. If you are recommending it to a teen make sure you’re ready to talk about the issues discussed in the book. I don’t know what it would be like to read this book for the first time as an adult, but I think it’s a perfect read for seniors in high school or freshman in college.

“We accept the live we think we deserve.”

“Sometimes, I look at my parents now and wonder what happened to make them the way they are.”

“I was looking at the old photographs, I started thinking that there was a time when these weren’t memories.”

“Try to be a filter, not a sponge.”

Roof Beam Reader has a wonderful review of the books here.

If you haven’t already seen the movie trailer (coming out this fall) check it out here!


Kristi said...

This has been on my TBR for a while now. I never read it as a teen, but it is probably something I would have loved. I hope it will work for me as an adult. It's amazing how the timing of when you read a book can have such an impact on how much you enjoy it. Glad to hear that you love it.

Brona said...

The trailer looks great and your review has pushed this book higher up my TBR pile!!
I'll be one of those people reading for the first time as an adult...I wonder how nostalgic it will make me feel?

Anne said...

I have this one ordered from the library right now, I cannot wait to read it!

Sandy Nawrot said...

It has an intriguing cast! Can you believe I've never read this book? I feel inept. Still, I feel drawn to the plot because my daughter is starting high school, and she is so SHY. And I remember so well how exciting and confusing and dramatic HS can be. I just shake my head and close my eyes and pray.

Jeanne said...

I read this as an adult and didn't like it--I kept wondering what was wrong with Charlie, was he autistic or just really sheltered?
I read it at the urging of my teenagers, who both liked it.

Roof Beam Reader said...

"I shouldn’t have worried though, the second time around the book was just as powerful as before, but in a different way."

I think that's exactly right - it's one of those books that can speak to you in different ways, at different times in your life - if you let it.

I don't think this book is for everyone - I've read it 5 or 6 times, now, and it's still my favorite. But we're all different - so we're all going to react differently to this one, ESPECIALLY, I think, because it is so raw and personal.

Great thoughts! And thanks for linking to my review. :)

Anonymous said...

So glad we found each other in college, and especially glad I was able to share this amazing book with you! I love re-reading my old copy with notes scrawled inside from all my favorite people who read it right along with me. :)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Kristi - Timing is everything! I read this book at the perfect time when I was in college. It's truly incredible how that can change the whole experience for you.

Dragonfly Daydreams - I hope you enjoy it. I really wonder how I would feel about it if I was reading it for the first time now.

Anne - I hope you like it!

Sandy - I almost think this would be a difficult book to read if you had a teen who was in high school, but I don't know. I've never been through that.

Jeanne - I think they definitely explain why Charlie is the way he is by the end of the book. I'm not surprised your kids loved it though!

Adam - I agree that it isn't for everyone, but if you read it at the right time in life it packs a powerful punch.

Care - My copy had both my notes and Katie's and I loved seeing the things that stood out to us back then!

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

Need to read this one! I know what you mean about the intensity of youth and that's one of the things I get from John Green's books and it's why I think I love his writing and characters so much. Interesting to think about 30 being less intense when in so many ways life is SO much more intense. Though I'll gladly take 30s over teens!!

Care said...

This has been on my list for awhile but am waiting for a sign as to WHEN would be best time. It's not yet, maybe next year.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Trish - John Green can absolutely capture that intensity!

Care - I'll be interested to read your review when you get to it!

Anonymous said...

Lovely review for a book that was not on my TBR pile yet. I will absolutely give The Perks of Being a Wallflower a try. Thank you for your recommendation.

Ana S. said...

I didn't know there was a movie coming! I so hope they do a good job with it - like you I really love this book.

Anonymous said...

I read this book last year in anticipation of the movie. I enjoyed it but it was interesting to read it with a middle school aged son who will be in high school next year. Unfortunately, I am so removed from high school (and college) that I thought less of how it related to my past than how it relates to his future. It would be interesting for you to revisit it every 10 years. I think you will be amazed at how your perception of it changes as your life evolves.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

FABR Steph - I hope you like it!

Nymeth - I'm always nervous when it's a film of a book I love, but it looks like they might have done a good job. Fingers crossed!

swampofboredom - I think that would be a completely different reading experience. I'm really curious to know how I'll feel about this book when I have kids.

Jenners said...

I keep coming across this book -- which is a sign that I need to read I think. Thanks for the wonderful review!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jenners - That happens to me occasionally and I usually end up reading the book if it keeps popping up in odd places.