By Matthew Knox
At a first glance, The Perks of Being a Wallflower may seem to lack substance, but Stephen Chbosky does not disappoint with this coming of age story.
The story chronicles a boy named Charlie who is in his freshman year of high school. Told through a series of letters that Charlie writes to an unknown friend, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” uses immense creativity to get it’s message across. We never find out who this friend is, neither does Charlie. He isn’t writing because he needs advice. Charlie writes because he just wants to know that someone listens. The letters are intensely personal and intimate and provide us with a look into his reality as well as his uniquely unfiltered view of the world. Although, he can say things in a manner that make him seem unconcerned. For example, when he openly speaks about how his best friend killed himself, and how it would provided more closure if he had left some type of a note.
Charlie is very intelligent and a gifted writer. His English teacher, Mr. Anderson, notices this and begins providing Charlie with numerous books to read and write reports about. During his freshman year, Charlie meets Sam and Patrick, who quickly become his best friends, along with a few others. They introduce him to his first party, pot brownies, alcohol and ‘Kings’, the local diner. They participate in normal teenage activities such as secret santa for Christmas and taking long drives throughout the night. We follow Charlie through his first relationship with a girl that he doesn’t seem to like at all. He contemplates how to break up with her, once he discovers that he can actually do that, of course. We watch as he falls in love with Sam, as he never says a word – he just wants her to be happy. He learns that when it comes to love, just wanting someone to be happy isn’t enough. You have to want them and love them for yourself as well.
For the first time in his life, Charlie begins to feel like a normal kid and seems to find some happiness. He feels like he has finally found somewhere he belongs. Nonetheless, there are always unforeseen difficulties to struggle and deal with. For Charlie, thoughts are like a bad song on a broken record; just stuck in your head. When Charlie was six, his Aunt Helen was killed in a car accident, something that he blames himself for. This brings us to the true plot of the story. How a boy struggling with overwhelming guilt for something that he bears no responsibility for can survive his first year in high school. How sometimes just finding the perfect song can make you feel infinite. Charlie is a wallflower and he shows us that the perks are great indeed.
If you enjoy the book, be sure to check out the movie as well.