Stephen Chbosky’s: “The Perks of being a Wallflower”
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming-of-age novel written by Stephen Chbosky and narrated by Charlie, a boy who starts writing a series of letters to a stranger suggested to him by someone whom he calls “her”. Charlie is not his real name, in fact, right off “Charlie” tells us that he will not use anyone’s real names “because i don’t want you to find me.” He starts writing these letters the night before his freshman year in high school. Specifically, these letters are about how his navigations through high schools are going: new friends, house parties, and puppy-love relationships.
Fifteen-year-old Charlie is coping with the suicide of his best and only friend, Michael. To lessen the fear and anxiety of starting high school alone, Charlie starts writing letters to a stranger, someone he heard was nice but has never met in person. At school, Charlie finds a friend and mentor in his English teacher, Bill. He also overcomes his chronic shyness and approaches a classmate, Patrick, who, along with his step-sister Sam, become two of Charlie’s BFFs.During the course of the school year, Charlie has his first date and his first kiss, he deals with bullies, he experiments with drugs and drinking, and he makes friends, loses them, and gains them back. He creates his own soundtrack through a series of mix tapes full of iconic songs, reads a huge stack of classic books, and gets involved in the Rocky Horror Picture Show audience-participation culture. Charlie has a relatively stable home life, though, with supportive, if distant, parents to fall back on. Unfortunately, a disturbing family secret that Charlie was molested by his aunt when he was just a child has been repressed for his entire life surfaces at the end of the school year. Charlie has a severe mental breakdown and ends up hospitalized. Charlie’s final letter closes with feelings of hope: getting released from the hospital, forgiving his Aunt Helen for what she did to him, finding new friends during sophomore year, and trying his best not to be a wallflower. Charlie hopes to get out of his head and into the real world, participating in life instead of just watching it fly by.
How it works
Stephens writing style beautifully captures the range and rollercoaster emotions a teenagers life can be, and how immaturely most teens handle those feelings. Charlie writes in first-person, but it almost feels like second-person because he is writing letters later in the day about what happened and what he can remember rather than telling us in real-time. He describes himself in the way he writes as an extremely shy kid and, to be frank, a complete nerd.