The Perks of Being a Wallflower – A #Review

Book Title: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Author: Stephen Chbosky

I’d heard a lot about The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It was also the winner of the award for the Best Young Adult book for the year 2000. So it was with a great sense of anticipation that I picked it up, specially because I knew nothing of the story at all.

A coming of age book..

…of 15 year old Charlie. He is about to start High School but isn’t at all ready to jump into the crazy whirlpool that High School is. The recent suicide of his friend has left him traumatised. The passing away of his beloved aunt haunts him too. Painfully shy and a complete introvert Charlie enters school which begins on not a very happy note. However, soon enough, he befriends siblings Patrick and Sam and a whole new world opens up to him – a world of friends, dating and music as also of drugs and sex. The book talks about how Charlie manoeuvres himself through that first year at High School.

The book deals with a very wide range of issues ..

– suicide, PTSD, bullying, drugs, homosexuality, young sex, incest, abuse, rape – the entire gamut that plagues young people. It was published in the nineties, a time when these subjects weren’t as freely discussed as they now are. Which is perhaps why scores of teens identified with it. It isn’t tough to imagine that every youngster at that age is a little bit unsure and lost and struggles with one of more of these issues. That makes Charlie identifiable and his story relatable. It is definitely a brave book for its times. Some of its quotes went viral too. Remember this one?

We choose the love we think we deserve.

It is an epistolary novel ..

…where Charlie writes to an imaginary friend. That’s where the trouble started for me. Charlie’s voice just didn’t sound like that of a fifteen year old. He writes like a middle schooler, which would have been acceptable if he hadn’t also been an advanced English student, apparently much ahead of his peers and the favourite of his English teacher.

Also, his world view too seems that of an 8-year-old which was confusing. His knowledge about girls, boys, love, sex and drugs is so very rudimentary. Assuming he had a over-protected life at home, (which is tough, given that he has an older brother and sister), surely he has been around other children, peers and that should have given him some idea.

I wondered for bit if he was autistic going by the way he ‘reports’ events rather than writes about them, plus there’s his exceptional talent for English. Or perhaps he had Asperger’s going by his social ineptness. However, the fact remained unexplained. And that shall bug me forever.

While the teen issues never really lose relevance, there have been a number of coming-of-age books since this one (like Simon vs the Homosapein Agenda) that are much better, much more focussed in what they have to say.

Last thought: Don’t kill for it but do read it if it’s at your library.

Linking up with the Write Tribe Reading Challenge – This is my review for ‘A book that was a gift’. It came to me from my dear Secret Santa at the BAR Nibha Gupta.

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22 thoughts on “The Perks of Being a Wallflower – A #Review

  1. Rachna

    Older son bought this book and is currently reading it. I am keen to see what he feels of the book. After that I do plan to pick it up. 😊 Thanks for the review, Tulika.

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  2. Balaka

    I always love reading your reviews. I liked the last thought 😉 I am not into teen fiction yet would keep this book in mind for gifting purpose. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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  3. Sanch @ Sanch Writes

    Oh that’s a shame and very different from my thoughts on the book. I loved this book and thought the voice was authentic. The trauma, the issues that are dealt with were all raw and well done. I only read it about 5 or 6 years ago. Loved the movie too and actually own the DVD. I think I rated it as 5 stars when I read it. And Charlie, my heart just broke for him. The twist was unexpected as well for me

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    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      I do get Charlie’s trauma, or maybe I don’t. I thought he cried too easily. I cannot see a 15yr old crying that frequently, specially at school. Also I found him too naive.
      Perhaps you felt more for him since you have more exposure to emotional/psychological issues being a psychologist. Did you come across youngsters like him during the course of your work? I’d love to hear more about it.

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      1. Sanch @ Sanch Writes

        I think that’s common especially for boys although I also see the opposite where kids with trauma get very aggressive. It’s been a while since I’ve read the book and I’m trying to remember the naïveté but struggling a bit. And yes, I have come across teens like him; I think it’s why I love contemporary YA fiction because I can see a lot of my clients in the characters and I know they give these kids a voice and validate their emotions

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        1. Obsessivemom Post author

          That’s true. I do enjoy YA fiction too. The stories give me an insight into the pressures children face and an explanation to why they do what they do. It’s a fascinating age to be sure. I think our personal experiences with/around teens would influence our perception of a book. Thanks for sharing your views.

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    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      Oh please do. I’d love to hear what you think of this book and the lead character.

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  4. Writing Journey

    Looks like this one is going to my TBR list now. I do enjoy coming of age books, but like you said if there are character flaws in the narrative, it leaves you wondering. My review this month is on similar lines but of a different book.

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    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      I like coming of age books too. But the voice of the protagonist should sound age appropriate. That was my only complaint with the book.

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  5. Aesha

    One question: Will this book relevant for today’s teens? Also, my daughter is nine years so can she read this one or should I wait. Since she doesn’t understand suicide and do I need to expose her to all that so soon.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      It would be okay for a teen but not for a nine-year-old. I think you should hold one. Mine are twelve and I am holding on for a year or two. To begin with Indian ethos is different from American. And Charlie here deals with too many things – he experiments with drugs and witnesses rape. Nine is a little early.

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  6. shanayatales

    Reviews like this are the reason I love to read and stalk book blogs & book reviews.

    I was on the fence with this one, but your review clears things up for me. I don’t need to rush to read this. Slotting it in the virtual ‘maybe someday’ pile. Thank you for sharing this review, Tulika!

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