Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Book Review

Author: Stephen Chbosky. Release date: 1999. Publisher:  Pocket Books. ISBN: 9780671027346.
Annotation:  Charlie is different from other teens: he’s very sensitive, he doesn’t think of things the way other people do, but he’s determined to participate in the experiences of his freshman year of high school as much as possible. After befriending two seniors, Charlie finally begins to feel a part of something. 
Personal thoughts: I am a fan! This is a classic young adult novel that is also thoroughly enjoyable for adults. Charlie is one of the most endearing main characters ever written particularly because he is utterly quirky.  I am really looking forward to the movie version that is set to come out in 2012.
Plot summary: Charlie starts his freshman year of high school in the fall of 1991 and chronicles his experiences through letters to an unknown person (simply called “Friend”). The story begins with Charlie expressing how upset he is that his best friend, Michael, has recently committed suicide. It is clear that Charlie is an unusual fifteen-year-old. In his letters to his friend, he seems to think about things other people do not. After he is befriended by brother and sister, Sam and Patrick, both seniors, Charlie begins to experience things outside of his own mind. He is introduced to friends of Sam and Patrick, he attends parties and experiments with alcohol and drugs, and he explores his sexuality in his love for Sam. Throughout his letters, Charlie alludes to previous hospitalizations for psychiatric reasons, but divulges little about the nature of his psychological problems. As he encounters typical teen situations, Charlie must deal with them in his own way. Often he cries or says and does the wrong thing, but he is always, simply put, Charlie.
Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a very engaging story about a very endearing character. Almost from the beginning, the reader will fall in love with Charlie and his quirkiness. Although it is clear that he has some deeply rooted psychological issues, Charlie’s zest for his experiences is addicting. Charlie truly values the relationships he has with the people in his life. He discusses in great detail his feelings for his family, his friends Sam and Patrick, and his encouraging teacher, Bill. He also describes other experiences ranging from masturbation to acid trips to fighting. In every detail, however, Charlie provides an unusual but realistic look at what many teens experience. Charlie’s prose is a look at what teens might think or feel if they weren’t inhibited by the need to appear “normal.” Charlie realizes that he’s odd, but it doesn’t change who he is or how he feels. Charlie’s life and experiences draw the reader in, making the book difficult to put down. Teens and adults alike will find something in Charlie or in the people in his life to relate to. Charlie’s friend Sam must struggle with the sexual victimization she received as a child. Her brother, Patrick, is dealing with being a closet homosexual who is in love with the high school’s star athlete. Charlie’s sister has an abusive boyfriend who threatens to abandon her he finds out she’s pregnant. All of the characters in the novel are very relatable and create a rich and compelling cast for the plot. In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Chbosky has created a fun, interesting, entertaining but also very sweet, sentimental and emotional read.
Genre: Fiction
Reading level: Grade 8+

Similar titles: N/A
Themes:  High school relationships, being different.  
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from Los Angeles Times, School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly.
Series Information: N/A

Discussion Questions:

- Who do you think Charlie is writing to? How do you think the letter format enhances the story? Do you think the story would be different if told in the third-person?
- Do you like Charlie? Sam? Patrick? Who is your favorite character?
- Why do you think this book is so controversial?
- How do you think you would feel about the various situations Charlie encounters?
- How do you think the story would be different if it took place in the present day instead of 1991?

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