The Perks of Being A Wallflower(1999), is a modern age novel written by Stephen Chbosky. The novel is about the dilemma of passivity vs passion that marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction. Stephen Chbosky has created this deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that would spirit the readers back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up. The novel is later adapted to a movie under the same title in 2012.
About The Author
Stephen Chbosky is an American screenwriter, film producer, film director, novelist, television writer, and television producer. He is best-known for writing the bestseller The Perks of Being A Wallflower(1999), as well as for writing and directing the 2012 film adaptation of the book. Most recently, he directed the 2017 drama Wonder and the 2021 film adaptation of Dear Evan Hansen. His first psychological horror novel, Imaginary Friend, was published in October 2019.
Storyline of The Novel
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is narrated by fifteen-years-old Charlie, the titular ‘wallflower’, in a series of letters that he writes to a stranger, beginning the night before he starts his freshman year of high school in 1991. These letters catalogue Charlie’s attempts to “participate”, as he wanders wide eyed through a series of house parties and Rocky Horror Picture Show productions with his new, older friends. Along the way, Chbosky intelligently explores stock Young Adult themes such as mental health, substance abuse and sexuality, whilst simultaneously reminding the reader about how exciting it is to be young and idealistic.
Though shy and sensitive in nature, Charlie is an intelligent boy with unconventional thinking capabilities. His first letters starts with Charlie mentioning about suicide of his Middle School’s friend and death of his favourite aunt Helen and how these tragic incidents have took toll in his life. Charlie befriends two seniors Patrick and Sam and ends up indulging in alcohol and other drugs with Sam. In the meantime, Charlie also learns about his sister having relationship with an abusive guy and eventually getting pregnant. The flashback of his aunt dying in car crash stops haunting Charlie, as he starts enjoying company of his friends and Sam. While playing Truth and Dare, he is asked to kiss the prettiest girl in the room; he kisses Sam for which he faces neglect from the group. Overall this is a story filled with drama and lots of emotions, including, friendship, first love and teenage sexuality.
Analysis of The Storyline
Throughout the book, through the characters, the author seems to be attempting to answer some of the questions we all face at some time in our life. The author seems to be trying to find the reason why some good people chose bad people to love. This question is raised by Charlie to Mr. Bill and the answer he gives seems to be the central theme of the book “We accept the love we think we deserve”. This can be seen in various characters. Sam is in a relationship with a guy, who seems to consider that everything that is good about her, is good because of him. She seems to have gone through some tough times in her life, and the fact that she didn’t consider herself worthy, seems to have played a role in this.
The whole book seems to be asking the reader to love themselves. The author, by writing the story as a series of letters, seems to be trying to speak to the readers, as if speaking to a friend, a friend he sees in high regard, no matter how they see themselves.
Criticism of The Storyline
Charlie, the protagonist of the novel suffers extreme teenage crisis that sometimes breaks the readers’ hearts that all he had to handle alone inside his head. The book shows all the sides of being a teenager and isn’t afraid to cover mature themes. The book uses its more mature situations in order to relate to teenagers. Many teenagers have experienced these hardships either first hand or by hearing about them. The characters partake in activities that some may see as unwise. These are in the book however to add realism not to encourage or promote these acts. This book will most likely only be fully appreciated by older teenagers due to its unflinching depiction of teenage life. Before reading this book readers should know there are themes of sexual abuse and those that are sensitive to that topic should be cautious about reading this book.
The book has received love all over from many of its readers for its very realistic portrayal of teenage life, complex characters, and thought-provoking commentary from Charlie. This book displays a wide range of emotions. Its relatable and complex characters allow the readers to feel the same emotions the characters are feeling. The book’s use of journal entries to tell its story helps the reader connect to Charlie and it adds to the realism, which makes this book an absolute winner.