Book Summary: Charlie is a loner with some personal issues. However, he soon starts making a few new friends and coming out of his shell thanks to young love and Rocky Horror Picture Show. Still, there is something dark inside him that he fights to keep hidden.
APA Reference: Chbosky, S. (1999). The perks of being a wallflower. New York, NY: MTV/Pocket Books.
Impressions: The book can be difficult to read at times with a main character who is not entirely likable and some side characters that take some getting used to. The style of the book is interesting, as well, with it being written in letter form. The controversy behind the book includes its use of sex (and molestation), suicide, drugs, and other things that parents would find inappropriate for their teenagers to be reading about. However, I feel that the topics are common to teens and there is nothing overtly controversial for the age group and, in fact, are important for the age group.
Professional Review: Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angstthe right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlies no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous friend, Charlies letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlies family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when hes gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.
Kirkus Reviews. (2010). The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Book). [Review of the book The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky]. Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/stephen-chbosky/the-perks-of-being-a-wallflower/
Library Uses: An example to be shown at a high school during Banned Book Month.