I’m probably not alone in my preference to read the book before I see its film adaptation. The Perks of Being a Wallflower was no exception. I am now anxious to watch the movie.
Stephen Chbosky’s novel is told through letters written by Charlie, an insecure 15-year-old, to an unknown recipient. Charlie’s letters are brutally honest in their reflection of his life as the youngest of three children in a traditional family. It’s clear from the outset, though, that he is far more sensitive than most teenage boys. Sure, he faces teen angst like most kids, but his sensitivity and intelligence set him apart from his peers. Through what can only best be described as chutzpah, he introduces himself to Patrick and Sam (Samantha) – step-siblings in their senior year. Charlie is a freshman, but his new friends don’t seem to mind and welcome him into their circle.
As Charlie becomes more involved with his new friends, he discovers that he is not the only teenager with problems. His letters reveal more and more about himself and those around him. It’s evident that his issues are intense: misplaced guilt and an ability to keep a family secret he shouldn’t be burdened with. Lingering in the background are topics of sexuality, identity, and perceptions.
Charlie may never be a popular boy, but he has friends and family who care deeply about him. Even for those of us long removed from school days, it’s still possible to appreciate the value of those intangibles.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Gallery Books, 1999