Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

There are only two more books to go in my Eclectic Reader Challenge, which means you only have to sit through two more of these terribly written reviews. You guys are great if you take the time to read these, because, as I’ve said before, I’m not a review kind of person and never have been. So! On with it!

I have to admit, I read this book only after I saw the trailer for the film. That being said, I’m glad I did take the time to read it. Stephen Chbosky’s first novel is about a boy named Charlie who, in a series of letters to an unnamed friend, recounts his first year of high school, meets two great friends, and sets out to “participate” in life for the first time.

The way this book is written, I think, really lends to the entire experience of the story. Charlie’s writing style is simplistic, even choppy at times, but the uncomplicated language only accentuates his brilliantly honest observations. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything. He doesn’t make things out to be better or worse than they are. They just are, and Charlie is left to make what he will out of that.

Because this is a series of letters, Charlie’s personality also has a lot to do with what we eventually read in the story. He is, as the title suggests, a wallflower. He isn’t much a part of things at first, but that gives him an opportunity to notice everyone else as they do things. He is able to pick apart what people are doing and why they are doing it, even if he has questions about why. He is incredibly intuitive, and from this stems a lot of introspection as he tries to understand how other people work.

And this is the core of the book. As Charlie wavers between passivity and passion, we are left to wonder why it is that people do the things they do, and for what reasons. This is definitely the most thoughtful book I’ve read, in that every few pages there’s another insightful sentence that could lead to hours of philosophical questioning. I think that’s a wonderful thing, and I think that’s why Charlie is such a compelling narrator. (An example: “The movie itself was very interesting, but I didn’t think it was very good because I didn’t really feel different when it was over.”)

Throughout the book, he wonders if there’s something wrong with him, which I think is something we all can relate to. At some point, we realize that we don’t exactly fit in, that we’re not like other people, and we have to reconcile ourselves with the fact of our uniqueness. And Charlie, by the end, certainly has a lot of things to reconcile with.

This is also a book about growing up and losing innocence. Charlie is exposed to a lot of heartbreak, both involving himself and involving other people, and he must handle that in the best way he can, in the process losing the frailty of what he was. I don’t know if I’m explaining it right, but then again I’m never certain with these reviews.

I suppose all I can say in closing is that this is one of the very few truly truthful and honest books I’ve ever read, and that’s something I think very highly of in a novel. I don’t exactly know what makes a book honest, but it’s one of those things you know when you read it.

Happy reading.