Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

POCKET BOOKS, 2002/1999

Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

Since its publication, Stephen Chbosky’s haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion has received critical acclaim, provoked discussion and debate, and grown into a cult sensation with over half a million copies in print.

It is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates, family dramas, and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and Rocky Horror Picture Show, where all you need is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. Through Charlie, Chbosky has created a deeply affecting novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is not yet a classic, but it is one that has marked and touched many young readers. The book being a favourite among many, I had been waiting to get my hands on it for some while now and when I did, I read it in a day. The narration flows easily and the voice of Charlie makes you turn page after a page. Whilst reading, I found a single piece of red glitter glued into one of the pages of the book and the subtleness of that made me smile. Sometimes you find small treasures in library books.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a collection of letters written by Charlie, a high school freshman. He writes about his own life and about the lives of the people around him. The letters follow his first year in high school and the friends and the observations he makes. Charlie is a very introverted character but he has a keen perception with which he documents the events around him. Through his letters, the reader can follow his attempts of trying to make sense of life and of people, and trying to be part of it all. As Charlie befriends two siblings, Sam and Patrick, he is also introduces to the world of high school parties and secrets. All of this is reflected against Charlie’s passion for writing and he reflects the issues to the books that his English teacher keeps recommending to him.

The first thing that struck me about The Perks of Being a Wallflower was that it was a very MTV type of book. The issues and problems described in the books seem to cover anything and everything out there. In the beginning I wasn’t very convinced by this, but as Charlie is a very perceptive character, it would also make sense that he’d see more that the others. The novel is, yet again, an epistolary one and the letters that Charlie writes are all written in a very colloquial way. It makes the style and voice poignant and makea you remember the character long after finishing the novel. Although Charlie is a wallflower that observes mostly others, the story is very much about his own development and growing up. I must admit that I was not a fan of the ending, however powerful and eye opening that is. I think the reason why The Perks of Being a Wallflower has held its positions as a cult YA novel though all these years is that it captures something very fragile about the time in high school and the confusion surrounding you. I would definitely recommend it to people currently in high school as well as others who want to experience a very poignant narration about the high school experience.


I don’t know if you’ve ever felt like that. That you wanted to sleep for a thousand years. Or just not exist. Or just not be aware that you do exist. Or something like that. I think wanting that is very morbid, but I want it when I get like this. That’s why I’m trying not to think. I just want it all to stop spinning.


6 thoughts on “Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

  1. Ah, the treasures that come from library loans and used books! I bought a used copy of Demon Haunted World and it had a lovely note inside saying “Knowledge is power, love mom.”- made me smile until I noticed the book was an unread gift haha
    I watched the Perks of Being a Wallflower and although I enjoyed watching it I felt as if the book would be way too “I’m a highschooler, woe is me”. But, after reading your review I’m tempted to go pick up a copy. 🙂

    • Oh no! That’s terrible. Yes, there are plenty of the “woe is me” books in the YA genre, but I think The Perks of Being a Wallflower still offers more than just the angst of being a teenager. I’m tempted to see the film now that I’ve read the book because the film stars Emma Watson 🙂

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