Epistolary novels aren’t usually my thing, as I’ve said before. I found this one particularly hard to put down as it contains heavy topics to take in. Perks of Being a Wallflower was picked up solely because it was going to be made into a film and, like many others, I wanted to read it before I saw it. I don’t know what I’d been expecting prior to reading this book, but I’m glad Chbosky created it as it is.
Fifteen-year-old Charlie is coping with the suicide of his friend, Michael. To manage the fear and anxiety of starting high school alone, Charlie writes letters to a stranger, someone he has never met in person, but heard was nice.
At school, Charlie finds a friend and mentor in his English teacher, Bill. Overcoming his chronic shyness, he approaches an older classmate, Patrick, who, along with his step-sister Sam, become two of Charlie’s best friends.
Throughout the school year, Charlie experiences his first date and his first kiss, he runs into bullies, he experiments with drugs and drinking, and he makes more friends, loses them, and gains them back.
Charlie’s home life is relatively stable, though, with supportive, if distant, parents to fall back on. Unfortunately, a disturbing family secret Charlie’s repressed for years surfaces at the end of the school year. The memories flood Charlie, resulting in a severe mental breakdown and ends up hospitalized.
Cons were impossible to come up with for this coming of age story. If anything, I’d complain about it being epistolary since they’re not my favorites, but this was really well done. I may have to rethink my stance against the formatting as I’m finding books such as this novel slightly more enjoyable. The only con I can squeeze out of this is that it tends to get banned from school curriculums.
Usually the perpetrators are parents trying to keep their children from having the opportunity to learn about real world problems. When stop like this happens, it makes it difficult for the individual student to decide whether or not Chbosky’s work is going to help them better their life experience or pretend bad things don’t occur in the real world and won’t occur to them.
Pros are all over this. To keep it short, Charlie experiences a lot of tragedies, albeit some a hell of a lot worse than others. What makes this book amazing is how Chbosky includes real world and life problems seamlessly. Charlie experiences the loss of a friend through suicide, witnesses sexual and physical abuse, experiments with drugs and alcohol, stands by his gay friend as they come to terms with their own identity, and he faces his own reality. All acts that happen at some point in high school to almost all of us. And it’s okay if it does. That’s what this book tries to make clear. Bad things happen, no matter how hard we fight to avoid them, but they don’t have to define you for the rest of your life. You’re allowed to overcome the darkness when you’re ready and be happy.
This is why you should read Perks of Being a Wallflower.