My second review for my digital artefact with Grace (click here to check out her blog!)- ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ by Stephen Chbosky; my absolute favourite book(!).
‘At the time I first read this book, I thought ‘Oh, this is cute, Charlie is a little bit weird, but this book is nice’ and I put it on a shelf where it has stayed for a solid three years. I do not normally re-read a book, but while passing Chbosky’s book recently I decided to flip through a few pages and ultimately decided to once again read ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’. Now I’m thinking ‘I am so much like Charlie’. (SPOILERS!)
So, ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ … it’s about the struggles of fifteen-year-old Charlie and his life on the edge of the dancefloor. Throughout this novel, he becomes friends with Sam and Patrick (nicknamed ‘Nothing’, which is mentioned at the beginning of the book) and how he becomes more participated in life and goes out onto the dancefloor. Charlie is the awkward teen learning about sex, drugs, alcohol, friends and family for the first time in his life. He is what Patrick calls a ‘wallflower’- the one who is always watching but never acts or speaks, focusing on how everyone else lives their lives without actually living much himself.
Charlie’s narration is in the form of letters to ‘a friend’ (the friend of course being the reader) and he writes about each event that has happened the past week and what he is feeling at the moment. He talks about; how he first meets Sam and Patrick; how he goes to parties and drinks, smokes and even tries drugs like LSD and pot; how he dates a girl named Mary Elizabeth; any events or dramas he witnesses- including his sister’s pregnancy and abortion, the rape of another girl and Patrick’s struggles with his lover named Brad (who has a girlfriend of his own) which eventually lead to Patrick getting beaten up by Brad’s friends and Charlie fending them off -; and he especially talks about his love for Sam.
My favourite part of this book is the ‘infinite moment’- after their dance, the trio drive to Downtown; but not before Sam gets out of the car to ride in the back of the pickup through the tunnel. Charlie notes of each individual moment- Sam screaming from the back, Patrick laughing at her, the song ‘Landslide’ playing from the stereo and the lights of the city at the end of the tunnel –and claims ‘in that moment, I swear we were infinite’.
The ‘freeness’, kindness and innocence of Charlie is overwhelming- he is a true character I feel like I can relate to in several aspects. His sadness, confusion and (of course) his innocence all seem truly genuine thanks to Chbosky’s use of words- especially through his choice of setting up the entirety of the narrative in letter format, which gives an even more personal sense as he writes to his friend. While this novel is depressing, the comedy of Charlie’s and his friends actions made the book that much more heartwrenching as he explores out of his comfort zone and experiences new things.
The passion and determination Charlie displays makes him a very strong and open-minded protagonist; he is never truly out in the world for just himself, he’s always there for his friends and even his family. Moments like this further heightened the emotional connection between audience and character as Chbosky slowly reveals bits and pieces of Charlie’s past- how his beloved Aunt died getting him a present and he feels unwanted guilt about it –as well as the past of his friends which further explains his constant need of protection from his friends and the protection he wants his friends to receive, allowing the audience to further understand the complexity of Charlie’s mind as he expresses his deepest thoughts and fears.
This book is honest, genuine and very very very emotional- I am glad I chose to take it back off of the shelf and re-read it. I’m currently reading it again for the third time right now.
Highly recommend reading.