Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

perks of being a wallflower book cover

Charlie is a fifteen year old kid who does not fit in anywhere. Getting in touch with a friend he can write to, Charlie starts to spill all of his emotions and experiences. He is lonely, he is an outsider and that is just how things are. Soon he starts high school, but nothing really changes. He misses his best friend, Michael, who committed suicide a year before that, and is struggling to deal with that. Charlie battles severe depression daily. One day he takes a bold step and befriends Patrick “Nothing” and his stepsister Sam. Soon he feels like he is finally a part of something, and that things will not be so bad. Patrick and Sam are both seniors, and at the end of the school terms will hopefully be moving on to their respective colleges.

Charlie is rather taken with Sam, though he is firmly told that she is too old for him. Charlie is alright with that, and gets involved with Sam, Patrick and their friends. He becomes a part of the group. Things are slightly better for him now that he has people. Charlie’s English teacher, Bill, gives him plenty of books to read and to write papers on. Not for school, but for them, and Charlie takes to the task with gusto. He deals with his strange family, and that his sister is seeing a guy that hit her. Ultimately he discusses it with Bill, and Charlie and his sister have issues when the school contacts Charlie’s parents about it. Just like that they are on opposing sides, though Charlie only wanted to help. Sam starts seeing a guy named Craig, and it crushes Charlie, though he will step back and let he be happy. Patrick is dating a guy named Brad from school, who is also the quarterback. Everything is moving along smoothly, and Charlie likes this. With the group, though, Charlie starts doing things that are out of character, things that are new to him, such as smoking and drugs, though it all seems to be alright at the time.

Charlie deals daily with having lost his favourite aunt in the whole world, Aunt Helen. Charlie misses her gravely and feels responsible every day for her death seeing as she passed away going to get him his Christmas present. Charlie’s birthday is on the 24th of December, so every year around that time he is relatively depressed. His brother has returned home from college for the Christmas holiday, and Charlie is happy to have everyone together again. Shortly after the new year begins, Charlie has an issue when he somehow ends up dating Mary Elizabeth, one of the girls in the friendship group. Sam is thrilled for them, and everyone seems happy, except Charlie. Mary Elizabeth soon becomes an issue, and Charlie shakes her in the worst manner possible: by kissing Sam when Patrick dares him to kiss the most beautiful girl in the room. Soon Charlie has no friends anymore, and Sam is furious with him. Slowly but surely he is losing his grip on reality, and at a bad time, too, considering his sister needs his support now more than ever. While split from the group, Charlie learns that Patrick and Brad have broken up, and he wishes he could console Patrick. When a fight breaks out at school between Patrick and all of Brad’s friends, Charlie finally decides to step up, no matter what the group wants. His courage has him taken back into the good graces of the group. His psychiatrist, however, keeps scraping away at his past, and it makes Charlie nervous.

What is the psychiatrist looking for? Is Charlie’s drug use affecting his emotional threshold, too? What happened in Charlie’s past? What will he do when his friends move on to college and he is left alone? Will Charlie be able to find more of himself now that he is growing more confident in that ability? What lessons will Charlie learns from  his older friends?

GRADE 7I must honestly say that this is one of the few times that I believe the movie was better than the book. That is truly a rare occasion for me. I was impressed with this book, but it just lacked the kick that the movie gave it. The movie was a very loyal adaption of this book, and while it left some things out and altered others, overall the experience was similar. I liked how The Perks of Being a Wallflower was written as a letter style the whole way through, like a collection coming together. I enjoyed hearing how Charlie saw things, and I felt sorry for him. I thought it was better that Michael’s suicide was addressed better in the book, I thought it was something that was grossly overlooked in the film. There was some more character development here, but not an awful lot more than I already knew. The book is a quick, short read, too! One thing that really grated on me throughout was how much Charlie cried. Eventually I couldn’t even feel for him, I was just like wow, getting a little extreme here.

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27 thoughts on “Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

  1. theipc says:

    Fondest JB,

    While I enjoyed reading your piece here, I am starting to get worried that you didn’t care for the book I recommended and it found itself as kindling for your cookout.

    All my love,

    Chop

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    • Zoë says:

      Dearest Chop,

      No, do not think that! These are books I have read a while ago (I actually had quite a few book posts lined up well in advance). I have not read in almost three weeks and I am getting terrible withdrawals. Things seem to have calmed down at work again and I am anxious to get back to Mailman and his return from his botched Peace Corp debacle. I am almost done and I am thoroughly enjoying it. Very trippy. Very IPC.

      Love,

      JB

      Like

  2. table9mutant says:

    Lol! You calling Charlie a pussy?? ; ) Nice review – and I agree! : ) I think I liked the book a bit more than you did but, yes – this is one of those rare occasions where the movie is better! I feel that way about Stand By Me & One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest as well…

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  3. Tom says:

    Wow!!! I definitely definitely do not read enough so I won’t ever be able to say if a movie being better than a book is a rare exception. . .but I do have a feeling that this is true. Books have so much more space and time to explore things. Movies are supposed to be packed inside of the 2.5 hour mark. [Notice how I say ‘supposed to’ :)] Reading this review doesn’t shake my interest in the book, but now my previous thoughts are confirmed that this movie was really quite good. I thought Logan Lerman and Emma Watson were fantastic.

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    • Zoë says:

      It is an incredibly rare thing for a book to be the lesser of the two, it almost never happens. This was one of the cases that the film was far superior. They were both brilliant!

      Like

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