Author: Stephen Chbosky
Publish Date: 1 February 1999
Audience: Young adult (and above)
(N.B. This book deals with heavy and potentially upsetting issues such as suicide and sexual harassment)
‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ was recommended to me by my friend Bex as it is one of her favourite novels of all time (you can check out Bex’s wonderful blog here). I thoroughly enjoyed the film a few months back, and so after finding this at a car boot sale I thought it was due time!
I have read very, very few books which are written in epistolary form, but this style immediately felt perfect for ‘Perks’. As neither you or Charlie know who the letters are addressed to, it somewhat makes the experience much more personal, and I felt connected to Charlie from the get go. The letters themselves are so raw and honest that it’s hard to believe this is fiction; it accurately depicts school, home, AND personal life, with no unnecessary sugar coating, yet packed with emotion.
Another thing I adored about this novel was the authenticity of the secondary characters. Sam and Patrick are two very genuine friends to Charlie; they support him despite his flaws, yet they have their own issues too, which provides engaging and emotional action alongside Charlie’s everyday life. It is hard not to instantly fall in love with Sam and Patrick as you can feel the fondness Charlie holds for them from the very beginning, and their differences highly compliment one another. Upon research, I discovered that both characters were influenced by many people Chboksy knew in his adolescence which certainly shines through in their realistic nature.
The writing style of ‘Perks’ is one that is lacking from YA novels of the same content – it’s not pretentious, but it’s not dismissive. Despite the odd inspirational (and incredibly beautiful) quote, it is simply real and incredibly easy to identify with. Charlie brushes over the parts he thinks are unnecessary, and he TELLS you that; likewise, he goes into a lot of detail into the things he considers important, and then apologises for the rambling. It gives you a definitive idea of his morals and priorities, and allows the sensitive topics featured to be handled with the utmost care, adding just that extra layer of feeling which ‘Perks’ revolves so heavily around.
In addition, I felt ‘Perks’ wrapped itself up perfectly. Not everything was resolved, but that only highlighted its authenticity towards life. There was sufficient character development all round, and Charlie’s road to self-discovery ended at a deeply emotional, yet necessary point. Despite knowing the ending from watching the film, it was still as heartbreaking as I’d hoped it would be, leaving me full of angst but with an added burst of love and compassion for the characters.
In conclusion, ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ is an emotional roller-coaster from beginning to end. Everything about this novel is genuine: the loving friends, the broken home life, the heartbreak and angst. This is quite simply an intensely beautiful read from the onset, and I have no doubt I will be re-reading it in the future.
Next read: ‘The Wasp Factory’ by Iain Banks