Review: The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

3 out of 5 stars

I had real trouble deciding on a rating for this book – I’ve been debating over how many stars to award it since I finished it last night, and finally settled on three, which is a solid rating. I enjoyed it, but not as much as I enjoyed other books that I have awarded four stars, hence the lower rating.

I’d read so many glowing reviews of this book that I think I was expecting great things. And whilst it is a sweet, and in some cases haunting, coming-of-age story, it wasn’t fantastic. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely enjoyed it and read it in a couple of hours spread over a few days – but I just don’t see how it has quite the extent of praise that it has earned.

Before starting the book, I didn’t realise that it was written as a series of letters. And whilst this is a way for us to really see how Charlie is feeling as he pours his heart and soul into writing them, it makes the other characters fall a little flat. Sam especially – Charlie was in love with her, but I didn’t understand why because I felt I barely knew her. Most of what was written about Sam was Charlie commenting on how he felt about her, not what she was like as a person. Patrick was a little more developed in that Charlie wrote about time he spent with Patrick in a way that revealed more sides of his character. So although the letter format has some upsides: it is a very personal account of Charlie’s first year in high school; it also makes character development, apart from Charlie, very difficult.

The book was also very simply written. But I suppose that was just how Charlie is supposed to write – he is only fifteen after all. As for his personality, it was really nice to read a Young Adult book where the main character is so pure. Not pure as in won’t drink, take drugs, have sex etc, but as in a genuinely kind and good-natured person. He spends so little time thinking about himself, and most of it worrying over others. He is unstable and very over-emotional, which is something rarely portrayed in male protagonists.  It is for this reason that I am interested to see how Charlie will be portrayed in the film – I just can’t imagine Charlie, the emotional wreck, on screen. I feel like they will tone it down a bit, which is a shame because it’s such an important part of the book. Many readers will be able to identify with Charlie’s position – not a popular guy, nor a social outcast – and it most likely for this reason the book has gained such a cult following.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys contemporary Young Adult novels, or if you like books set in high school. Although many characters fall a bit flat, Charlie is a stand-out protagonist and we definitely need more people like him in the world; people who think more about how others are feeling than themselves. With a bit of a twist at the end, it is a lovely account of high school without feeling the need to portray too many outrageous parties, consumption of drugs and alcohol, and sex.

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4 thoughts on “Review: The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky”

  1. I loved that book, but I think a lot of that was to do with having read it at 13 and hoping desperately that my secondary school experience might be similar to his (bearing in mind I read this the year before I came back from the States!)When I re-read it more recently though, with secondary school and age 16 well behind me, I felt the same as you. It’s very evocative of the high school experiences of a lot of people, but without the desperate hope that I might have something similar in a few years’ time, it fell flat the second time around.

    1. It does sort of make me yearn for days like those, to be honest! It really is lovely but I think that’s purely down to what Charlie is like. I suppose Sam and Patrick and the other characters will be very open to interpretation in the film, as we don’t know much about them anyway.

  2. That’s true! Will be interesting to see what you think of it =)Thanks for the giveaway link, but I’m not sure if that one is my kind of thing.

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