The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (1999)
Charlie is a really special kid that has to face the loss of his best (and only) friend, Michael, who has committed suicide and has left him alone. In his first day of high school, Charlie doesn’t manage to make a single friend, he has problems interacting and socializing with other people and he’s a sensible boy. However, he meets Sam and Patrick, two kids that will accept and love him, they’ll become his best friends and will teach Charlie how to live a bit more while he quickly falls for Sam…
Charlie: He’s a 15-year-old having difficulties to make friends in his first year of high school until he meets Sam and Patrick. They introduce him to new friends and their diverse, free-thinking as well as to the world of drugs, alcohol and new music. He seems quite sensitive and sometimes naïve. Charlie falls in love with Sam really fast although she tells him that he shouldn’t see her in that way. Throughout the novel, Charlie develops from an innocent ‘wallflower’ that lived in books to an adventurous, befriended teen that learns that life needs to be lived not watched. Sam and Patrick show Charlie the perks of being a wallflower.
Sam: A 17-year-old in her last year of high-school, she’s Patrick’s step sister and really close to him. She is slightly protective with Charlie as he is younger. The latter falls for her and she tells her not to. Sam is a very intelligent, affable, motivated, emotional, strong-minded girl who knows what she wants and what is right, most of the time. With the help of her friends, she introduces smoking, parties, drugs, sexuality, kisses, friendships and relationships to Charlie. Sam is one of the characters that provide Charlie with the knowledge that made him lose his innocence.
Patrick: 17 years old, Sam’s step-sister, Charlie is his best friend along with his step-sister. He’s openly gay and has a relationship with the quarterback of the football team, Brad, although they keep it as a secret since the latter doesn’t one anyone to know he’s gay. Like Sam, Patrick is also a senior in high school. He experiences the constant ridicule at school about being gay, but due to his mature, carefree personality, he does not take it personally; especially when Brad is the one insulting him. Patrick is a very artistic person as well. Aside from exposing Charlie to a new way of life, he exposed him to new music.
Mary Elizabeth: Mary Elizabeth is also another high school senior. She became Charlie’s first girlfriend and has to be constantly reminded that she is pretty since she is so insecure. She ran the Rocky Horror Picture Show that the entire group of friends participated in. She is kind of a rebellious girl, with tattoos and piercings and hatred towards her parents.
My personal opinion
To be honest, the only reason I decided to read this book was because a film based on it starring Emma Watson (Hermione in Harry Potter) and Paul Rudd (Mike in Friends) was going to come out and it’s against my principles to watch a movie before reading the book. However, now I know it is really enjoyable and look forward to watching the film.
I actually began the book not knowing what it would be about but from the first chapter I was hooked. I loved Charlie’s naivety and awkwardness at the beginning of the book and how throughout it lots of key themes are introduced; suicide, drug use, alcoholism, abortion, homosexuality, etc.. Although I have the feeling that they were too many for such a small book. These issues are part of the way Charlie develops in the novel but in reality few teenagers would experience all of them, which makes it special on one side and non-too-relatable in another. I was not expecting the novel to have that main-character-tells-the-story-through-a-journal format, to be honest it slightly disappointed me but I got used to it quickly. I love how every single character in the story is important and how without them Charlie would be completely different. Charlie’s life is certainly not ordinary, and this is one of the reasons the story is so appealing.
Also, and even though this is not so relevant, I have discovered some new awesome music because of the book. The songs in a few mix tapes the characters record is mentioned (such as Asleep by The Smiths and Vapour Trail by Ride) and that made me curious to look it up on Youtube. The same happened with the books Charlie’s English teacher gives him to read, I’m curious to know if I’ll like them as much as Charlie did.
I have to say I was surprised to know the novel had been first published in 1991 but that it has gained popularity now (or maybe I’m ignorant enough not to know it was already famous back then). It is now, 10 years later, that they’ve decided to make a film. Although I’m glad to know it is directed and written by the author, Stephen Chbosky. I have to say the cast is really really good, all the actors look close as how I imagined the characters to be. Except for Emma Watson, to be honest she looks nothing as how I pictured Sam to be. Starting off with the fact that the book mentions several times that Sam has long hair and she has shorter hair than any average guy. Also, Erza Miller (playing Patrick in the film) doesn’t quite resemble the Patrick I portrayed in my head, but it’s not like there is a deep description of his appearance in the book ergo I don’t really mind.
Who would I recommend it to?
I would recommend this to anyone, specially to teenagers and young adults. It is funny, charming, touching, beautifully-written and easy for anyone to enjoy.