BOTM – The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Our first Book of the Month has come to an end. According to The New York Times, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, “Passed from adolescent to adolescent like a hot potato… The book’s target audience has declared it a legit page-turner ever since it was published.” Now that we have finished our reading though, we want to tell you our thoughts!

This story is told in a first person narrative from the main character’s point of view through letters that he is writing to an unnamed friend. Charlie is a shy freshman in high school who seems fairly intelligent, yet he often overthinks things. He writes to this anonymous person about any happening in his life that he feels is substantial. Everything from his middle school friend’s suicide, being a part of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and plenty of family drama, to a favorite English teacher, his sister’s abusive boyfriend, an awkward romance and the death of a special aunt. Nothing is off topic for Charlie as he opens his heart and spills his feelings onto the paper.

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”

We quickly realize at the beginning of the book that Charlie has a unique mind. He is fairly naive and innocent unlike many of his peers. This makes the storyline a memorable one because Charlie’s views on the world and his circumstances are quite literal; His first kiss with an unlikely girl, a crush he knows that he shouldn’t have, secrets to keep for his family, drama with kids at school, he gives his direct thoughts and opinions on it all. The relatability that we can recognize with Charlie and all that he goes through is ultimately what makes it so easy to become engaged with his story.

While you may not have the exact same experiences as Charlie, the emotions conveyed in this book are so real and raw that it feels as though you have. As you read the words he has written to his anonymous friend, it is easy to believe that you are right there, struggling to understand your emotions along side him. Joy, sadness, compassion, pain, anger, anxiety, confusion and more. Any emotion you can think of, you’ll likely feel it at some point while reading about Charlie’s life.

“Even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.”

The ending theme of this book is exactly what the title projects, that there are perks to being a wallflower. To be a person watching and taking everything in around them is okay because you understand the world in a way that most people don’t, but it’s important to get off the sidelines and jump into the action as well. Charlie is an extremely insightful and caring young man, but by the end of his freshman year he realizes that it’s important to put himself out there and experience new things with new people. He understands that to build meaningful relationships he needs to be an active part of them rather than standing to the side and letting time pass on.

“So, if this does end up being my last letter, please believe that things are good with me, and even when they’re not, they will be soon enough.”

Tags:
  • Coming of age
  • Realistic Fiction
  • High School
  • Teen
  • Contemporary Fiction
  • Young Adult
  • Mental Health
  • LGBTQ+
Ratings:
  • GoodReads: 4.2/5
  • LibraryThing: 4.02/5

Final Thoughts

There are multiple large issues throughout this book that are mentioned, but not entirely dealt with; Suicide, abuse and depression to name a few. While the author, Stephen Chbosky, could have taken time to showcase how Charlie handled these things in more depth, he chose not to. This does not take away from the story in any way, but for some it may create a sense that something is missing. However, the emotions that are conveyed throughout the story are portrayed extremely well, which helps with the feeling that things are left “up in the air”. Overall, this storyline is likely suited best for someone who isn’t afraid of facing feelings head on and may enjoy listening to the seemingly relatable experiences of a high school student.

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