Author: Stephen Chbosky
Published by: Pocket Books
Genres: Young Adult, Epistolary
In-Series/Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Charlie is a freshman. And while he’s not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can’t stay on the sideline forever. 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. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.
Do you want to know why I picked up this book and decided to read it in the first place? It wasn’t because it was about to become a movie, or because “everyone was reading it.” It was because the word “wallflower” caught my attention.
Urban Dictionary defines “wallflower” as a type of loner; seemingly shy folks who no one really knows… often some of the most interesting people if one actually talks to them. Take a moment to really think about that. Would you say you’re a wallflower? Are you the person at a party who prefers to stay in the shadows, just observing your surroundings? Are you a person who takes everything in, and really appreciates life for what it is? Are you the person who brings a book with you everywhere you go, and no matter what’s happening around you, you just read and read to your heart’s content? Are you are introvert? Are you happy being independent, by yourself? But at the same time, do you crave attention; hopeful that maybe, just maybe, someone will someday come up to you and decide you’re worth knowing?
I remember flipping through this book and stopping when I found this quote:
“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”
Do you ever feel like you have everything you could ever need, and yet there’s something missing? And it doesn’t have to be a mundane thing — it could be something you’re searching for inside, to truly make you happy and whole. That’s what that quote means to me.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of those books that hit home with me. It was insightful and poignant, and for the most part, I felt like I was the one writing the letters inside the book. I connected to Charlie (the main character) in ways I can’t even begin to explain. Charlie’s outlook on life, throughout the book, was so pure and so innocent. It absolutely broke my heart, because I remember seeing the world that way once. Charlie wasn’t a normal kid. He was suffering from depression, especially after the death of his favorite aunt. And he was entering high school — a world that can either break you down or build you up. Charlie tried his best to “participate” and interact with everyone around him. He started hanging out with Patrick and Sam (both seniors) who opened his eyes to a lot of things Charlie wasn’t used to seeing. His letters, throughout the book, mirror his experiences during his first year of high school.
While the story doesn’t have a “thriller-like” pacing — because first off, it isn’t supposed to be “exciting” — I was sucked into Charlie’s head; sharing his first kiss, his feelings towards his new friends, and his feelings towards literature and music. He was so naïve about so many things; and his bluntness honestly made me laugh-out-loud at times. While Charlie isn’t exactly a “role-model” for the younger generation, he does prove that being different is okay; and friends come in all kinds of packages. I’d hand this book to any teenager, really; because I know there’s some part of them that would be able to relate to Charlie’s character, and they’d definitely learn a thing or two about life and all it has to offer.
“And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”
“So, I guess we are who we are for alot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.”
“I am very interested and fascinated how everyone loves each other, but no one really likes each other.”
“It’s just that I don’t want to be somebody’s crush. If somebody likes me, I want them to like the real me, not what they think I am. And I don’t want them to carry it around inside. I want them to show me, so I can feel it too.”
“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.”
“This moment will be just another story someday.”
“He’s a wallflower. You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.”
“It’s much easier to not know things sometimes. Things change and friends leave. And life doesn’t stop for anybody. I wanted to laugh. Or maybe get mad. Or maybe shrug at how strange everybody was, especially me. I think the idea is that every person has to live for his or her own life and than make the choice to share it with other people. You can’t just sit their and put everybody’s lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can’t. You have to do things. I’m going to do what I want to do. I’m going to be who I really am. And I’m going to figure out what that is. And we could all sit around and wonder and feel bad about each other and blame a lot of people for what they did or didn’t do or what they didn’t know. I don’t know. I guess there could always be someone to blame. It’s just different. Maybe it’s good to put things in perspective, but sometimes, I think that the only perspective is to really be there. Because it’s okay to feel things. I was really there. And that was enough to make me feel infinite. I feel infinite.”
“And if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn’t really change the fact that you have what you have. Good and bad.”
“I am both happy and sad at the same time, and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”
“Enjoy it. Because it’s happening.”
*Note: The Perks of Being a Wallflower was adapted into a coming-of-age drama film in 2012, and was written and adapted by the author himself, Stephen Chbosky. It stars Logan Lerman as Charlie, as well Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, and Mae Whitman.
I loved the film. I thought it was beautiful and heartbreaking, just like the novel. Watch the trailer here:
*DISCLAIMER* If you have not read this book yet, I’d really recommend not going through the comments section in case there’s a spoiler. You can always come back here later to discuss after you’ve read the book! (Or contact me if you want to talk about it beforehand)