An epistolary bestseller about the pain of adolescence and repressed memories, Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower exceeded expectations. The story of Charlie’s first high school experiences are told from Charlie’s perspective in the form of letters to an unknown recipient only referred to as “friend.” After dealing with the suicide of one of his best friends, Charlie struggles through entering high school without friends, but determines – with a characteristic positive attitude – to experience as much as he can. Charlie meets some older students: step-siblings Patrick, a flamboyant and outgoing young man referred to as “Nothing,” and Sam, an experienced and kind girl who takes a liking to Charlie. Patrick and Sam introduce Charlie to lots of new people and things, including drugs, girls, and music. Although Charlie works hard to live as fully as possible, he still experiences bouts of depression and pain that he can’t explain. When Sam shows sexual interest in Charlie, however, he comes to a painful, traumatic realization about his past that he must deal with.
Chbosky’s poignant language, which shines through Charlie’s voice, is quotable and has endured through the years since Perks was written. The integrity with which Chbosky portrays the ups and downs of high school life makes Charlie’s kind and selfless spirit believable and accessible for readers. The beautiful characterization creates enviable friendships and touching moments between Charlie and his friends.
Perks is an intriguing story with hints of mystery as to Charlie’s past and mental illness. The letter format creates the feel that the speaker is writing directly to the reader, which creates an exceptional connection to Charlie’s character. This novel is a beautiful story that tackles difficult subjects with a genuine voice and careful honesty.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in adolescent development or stories with internal dialogue.