874 of 925 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Startling, Gripping, and Absolutely Honest
I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky, in April of my sophomore year at college. A friend lent it to me and I had read it within twelve hours. This book reaches inside of you and pulls everything to the surface. It is a beautiful and painful story about a 15 year old boy, Charlie, moving through his freshmen year of highschool. It is written in...
Published on June 30, 2000 by Emily
102 of 134 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Kind of Cheezy and Implausible, But Provocative
Even though I have a bit of a penchant for the coming-of-age genre, it's unlikely I would have picked this debut novel up had it not been selected for my book club to read. That said, it's one of those paradoxical books that isn't objectively all that great, and yet managed to provoke fairly strong reaction in everyone I know who read it, and was a great springboard for...
Published on November 5, 2005 by A. Ross
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874 of 925 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Startling, Gripping, and Absolutely Honest,
I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky, in April of my sophomore year at college. A friend lent it to me and I had read it within twelve hours. This book reaches inside of you and pulls everything to the surface. It is a beautiful and painful story about a 15 year old boy, Charlie, moving through his freshmen year of highschool. It is written in letter form to an unknown friend. Charlie is always completely honest, whether he is describing his first "beer" party where he witnessed a girl being raped by her boyfriend, or explaining masturbation and his excitement for this newfound "activity." Charlie is a wallflower who observes people and feels very deeply for the experiences occuring around him. His favorite Aunt Helen died in a car accident when he was six, and he holds himself accountable, and his best friend committed suicide a year before he began the letters. His English teacher realizes Charlie's potential and brilliance and asks him to try and participate, which Charlie agrees to do. He becomes friends with two seniors Patrick and Samantha and begins to experience dances, parties, the Rocky Horror Picture Show, pot, love, bad trips and sexuality. We feel exhilerated when Charlie describes his happy moments, and we are swallowed in pain when Charlie is overwhelmed by his depression. Charlie's realizations are eye opening for us, and we are so captivated and immersed in his life that his life and stories become a very real experience. This book is about moments, and being as much alive within each moment as possible. It is about looking around us at the world and the people and appreciating that we don't know what their lives are like, and the pain and happiness that they experience day to day, so we shouldn't judge them but accept them and appreciate them. A favorite section of this book, for me, was when Charlie describes the movie It's A Wonderful Life, and how he wished the movie had been about one of the less heroic characters so the audience could have seen the meaning that this person's life held. That moment is just one example of Charlie's amazing intuition. This book should not be limited to a certain "category" of people. I truly believe that it would be understood, appreciated, and loved by everyone aged 12 (+ or - a few) and up regardless of gender, race, sexuality, etc. This book changes you, if only for a moment, but you are not the same upon completion, and you become more appreciative of life then ever.
161 of 183 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Going through the tunnel,
When I finished The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chybosky, I sat there in a stunned silence. The book was strongly powerful in a manner that diary or letter style books rarely achieve. There is usually a sense of implausibility in those types of books that Charlie's character completely negated. When trying to describe Charlie the mind suddenly reels, he's honest. Completely and utterly genuine in his perceptions and most of his actions. Charlie is also and emotional basket case that somehow manages to attract a special group of friends to him. A group of voluntary outcasts that go through the same problems teenagers face everywhere. Sex, drugs, relationships and acceptance figure heavily into everyone's lives, despite their personal beliefs on those subjects. I would like to mention Stephen's portrayal of Patrick, I was pleased to see the sbuject of homosexuality treated in such a plain manner. It was accepted as a fact and only the feelings invovled in the situations were important. I would recomment this book to a wide range of people, old or young, straight or gay, conservative or liberal. It was a pleasure to read and I enjoyed it immensely.
97 of 114 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bought it for my teenager, read it myself in one sitting,
I bought this book for my 13 year old daughter but wanted to read it first to see if it is appropriate It is a wonderfully written book in which Charlie, a deeply sensitive boy, finds true friends and learns to live, to love, to lose, and move on. The author gives this boy a voice and it's magnificent. I so appreciate Charlie's depth of emotions. I have a sensitive, emotional son and will want him to read this book in a couple years. Suicide, homosexuality, infatuation, deep deep friendships, finding yourself and re-finding yourself are all themes in this book. The author captures "moments" of adolescence -- those incredible high moments that might last just minutes -- and makes them so real. If only more kids could put a voice to these feelings. One reviewer doesn't think this book captures adolescence in the 90's -- I don't know because I'm a Mom . . . but I don't care. Charlie deals with drugs, smoking, drinking, messing up friendships, feeling alone, and uncovers family problems he has to deal with. And he deals with it as a young man who can stand back, look at it all, and make decisions about what he has experienced. I want my daughter to read it, maybe now or maybe in a couple years, for the hope it left me with. Charlie survived being hopelessly in love with one of his best friends. It hurt and he felt it and it didn't defeat him. With everything thrown at kids in jr. high and high school this book might just help them survive it a little more intact. I think I'm going to go talk to my kids right now . . . .
102 of 134 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Kind of Cheezy and Implausible, But Provocative,
Even though I have a bit of a penchant for the coming-of-age genre, it's unlikely I would have picked this debut novel up had it not been selected for my book club to read. That said, it's one of those paradoxical books that isn't objectively all that great, and yet managed to provoke fairly strong reaction in everyone I know who read it, and was a great springboard for conversation. As I later discovered, it's a very controversial book in that it's made its way onto assigned reading lists at high schools around the country, while also being one of perennially the most "challenged", according to the American Library Association. The story is told by Charlie, a 15-year-old boy starting his freshman year of high school in some medium-sized Pennsylvania city. From the very beginning, the reader learns he's got a whole host of issues, including the recent suicide of his only friend, and a recent spell at a mental facility following the death of a beloved aunt. The book takes the form of letters he writes to an unnamed person as a form of self-therapy. Presumably the format is intended to draw the reader into Charlie's world, to make the reader the confidante, but it's somewhat clumsily executed. From a stylistic standpoint, the letters often lapse into verbatim dialogue found in novels (and never in letters), and one suspects Chbosky would have been better off just writing it as a straight first-person novel.
In any event, soon after school starts and it's established that Charlie is utterly alone, he manages to befriend two seniors (a brother and sister). They cheerfully-and completely implausibly-take him under their wing and induct him into their established circle of "outsider" friends (the kind who go see Rocky Horror Picture Show every Friday). The likelihood of a group of relatively cool outsider seniors actively tanking in an utterly awkward freshman stretched credulity too far for everyone I know who's read the book. But you have to accept it to continue and soon, despite being the titular wallflower, he is well on his way to learning about the classic themes of sex, drugs, and rock and roll (although it's admittedly a bit of a stretch to call The Smiths rock and roll...). Much of the story revolves around how numb Charlie is to life, and his halting attempts to "participate" in life. Alas, his social skills are completely retarded, and while he is completely nice and full of love for his friends, his cluelessness to social norms continually confuses and thwarts him. And lurking behind all of this is some heavy duty emotional damage that has him always on the verge of bursting into tears, the underlying cause of which is revealed with a grand flourish at the end.
The book moves right along at a rapid pace, however if one steps back at the end, one realizes that Charlie has managed to encounter almost every teen issue out there in a kind of smorgasbord of afterschool special issues. There's drug experimentation, sexual experimentation, homosexuality and homophobia, abusive relationships, teen pregnancy, bullying, suicide, depression, social ostracization, and so on-basically every coming-of-age topic is covered in the span of a school year. It all becomes a bit much, and Chbosky would have been much better served focusing on only a few of these instead of throwing the kitchen sink at Charlie.
Charlie's account of all this is certainly likely to generate a great deal of empathy in certain kinds of readers (a number of people in my bookgroup reported having cried at times while reading it) and a certain degree of introspection on one's own teen years. However, elements of the story read strongly of author-fantasy, of being the kinds of things that Chbosky wishes had happened to him. For example, there's the cool Teach for America teacher who gives Charlie all these extra "advanced" books to read and eventually tells him that he's not just the most brilliant kid he's ever met, but he most brilliant person! And then there's Charlie's first kiss, set up in heart-rending perfection by the much older girl he's in love with, which reads like a textbook entry of what everyone in the whole world wishes their first kiss could have been.
So, it's not a great book, there's a lot of really cheezy bits, and one has to suspend a great deal of disbelief. And yet Chbosky does manage to pull off some very nice and sometimes quite funny writing about family, friendship, and figuring oneself out. The sexual themes are perhaps more than many parents might feel comfortable with, and what's especially likely to worry parents is that no judgments are made. (Of course, if judgments were made, it's unlikely the intended audience of teens would respond particularly well to being spoon-fed what they should think and feel.) Still, it struck most people I know as a good book for generating discussion with their own kids at age 13 or 14.
99 of 130 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sweet Tale of Coming of Age -- Truly,
By A Customer
I'll admit at first I was a bit put off by the overall "sweetness" of the main character, who I felt was created as a "sympathetic" movie-character fabrication (he loves his mom, loves his dad, loves his sister, loves his brother...it made me roll my eyes, seeing how "good" and "nice" this boy was; not since Leave It To Beaver have I seen such a "goodness" portrayed), but in the end the book won me over -- and I was moved by it. And that's what counts. The novel works! The only other book to affect me this way, despite my early misgivings, was The Losers' Club by Richard Perez. In much the same way the protagonist of that book was portrayed as a "good guy," a hapless loser -- and I couldn't get into it until the last half. There, too, I was finally affected by the main character -- and the book as whole. So you never know until the end. I say this to anyone reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower -- hang in there. I guarantee you'll be moved by this novel!
80 of 105 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Painful and True,
I, too, felt moved after reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and agree that almost any adolescent would be able to connect somehow to Charlie, the book's freshman protagonist. However, I'm a bit puzzled that so many reviewers have neglected to bring up the fact that Charlie is ill. Sure, he has all the normal teenage doubts and yearnings, but they're multiplied by the fact that he's not mentally stable. I don't want to give any of the book away, but I will say that throughout the letters to his friend, Charlie reveals more and more disturbing information about his background. So, although this IS quite a good book, and, as many have said, comparable to A Catcher in the Rye, I would warn readers to keep at the back of their minds that Charlie is not your average 15 year old boy. Having said that, I praise Mr. Chbosky for writing a book that's so true and raw, a book that all adolescents and anyone who's ever been an adolescent can relate to. A poignant read.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "He's just an empty shell of a human being, and not in a fun way!",
I was kind of expecting to like this book, because everyone else I know who's read it has described it with words like "amazing" and "powerful" and told me how important it was to them and how much they related to it. So I tried. I really did. Even when the main character burst into tears 15 times in 10 pages, sobbing anytime someone was nice to him. I tried to put myself in his 15-year-old shoes, but it still left a bad taste in my mouth.
I knew this book and I were not going to like each other about the time I got to that dreadful poem. If you think that is good poetry, then I am going to gently suggest you make a trip to a library or book store and visit the poetry section. As a lover of poetry (both classical and contemporary), I have to say that the poem in this book is not even bad in a way I can make fun of. It's just trite and useless. I am assuming that the author of the book wrote it, because no serious poet could get that published outside of the context of a young adult novel. I hope. Please, god, don't let poetry sink that far into self-indulgent tripe.
It just tried SO HARD. Around every corner was suicide, rape, abortion, drinking, drug use, bullying, violence, sex, depression, child abuse, family problems and low self-esteem. I'm not disputing that those are all serious, important issues and worthy material for a novel. I AM disputing that I have to like a book just because the author brought that stuff up. It felt...cheap. Like a big shortcut that he thought should automatically lead to substance. In real life? Yeah, that's substance. On paper? Nope. Not unless you deal with it in any sort of realistic or meaningful way (or at least humanize it, for god's sake).
I was talking to my brother about it, and I exclaimed, "But he's not even interesting! He's just an empty shell of a human being, and not in a fun way!"
And here's the thing: I was DEFINITELY sort of a weird kid, an outsider among the various high school cliques, a shy girl who cried too much about silly things. And I definitely struggled with depression, low self-esteem, not feeling like I was really a part of things. So I kept feeling like I ought to be more sympathetic, but I couldn't be. I just kept thinking, "how can anyone be this inexcusably BORING?"
But maybe that's not what gets me. If someone in real life were that boring, it would be different. It's more affronting to me that I am expected to want to READ about this kid's bland-ass, clichéd life observations. Even when he's dropping acid at parties, getting into fistfights and screwing around with a girl he doesn't even like, he STILL manages to make it dull--mostly by crying through all of it. And not even describing HOW he cried; he usually just says, "then I started crying."
In all fairness, there were parts of this book that I did like. Namely, any parts that were about Charlie's friends, rather than Charlie himself. If I'd hated every page, I wouldn't have finished reading it (or maybe I would have--I'm contrary like that). But that made me feel even worse, after I'd finished it. I WANTED to like it. I could ALMOST like it. But not quite. It was like being in a relationship with someone who's wretchedly, terribly wrong for you, but every so often they'll surprise you with flowers or dinner or say something nice, and it makes you relent a little bit until you end up staying with them way longer than you ever would or should have if they'd never bothered at all.
I will say that it made me feel much better about my own 15-year-old self. Sure, I was a lot of gloom and doom, and sometimes when I read old journal entries from that time, I kind of want to drown past-me in a toilet. But at least I had a personality. I was a human being. Charlie is...worse than a robot. He's bad fiction trying to be deep.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written, but somewhat cliched,
This review contains spoilers
OK, seriously, how I could pass up a book with a title like The Perks of Being a Wallflower? Especially after I read the back and it painted a picture of a shy, gawky and confused highschool kid who had to deal with similar issues that I did during that time?
Well, at least that's what I thought I'd be reading. It started out good enough. The writing is amusing, and some of the teenage "insights" were downright hilarious. There were also a few bits here and there that were amazingly well done and surprisingly painful.
However, taken as a whole, it's a bit too busy and I lost the believability near the end. I don't doubt that a great many intelligent kids have social difficulties in high school (I know that my own experiences were... suboptimal)...
However, the concept that, in the course of one year, a kid can learn about sex and masturbation, get addicted to tobacco, experiment with marijuana and LSD, overcome his own self-esteem problems, deal with child molestation, witness a rape, witness physical abuse, deal with an abortion, have his first drink, etc etc etc... well, it seems contrived. (As is the concept of a kid that gets to be freshman, knows about sex, but has never masturbated before.)
Let me just say that a person can be interesting and have emotional issues resulting from intelligence and poor social skills without having to have been physically or sexually abused. It gets tiresome to read books where such a situation either launches the character on their journey, or (in the case of this book) it becomes a surprise twist at the end.
This book would have been so much better had the kid just been a really bright kid who "didn't get it". There's ample drama and angst in a normal well-adjusted teenager that it's unnecessary to create especially painful experiences for the reader. In many ways, this seems to be the easy way out.
The format is one that is easy to do wrong (collection of letters), but works in this case because the writing style is believable for the type of character writing it... and it's all written by one person, so you don't have the problem of tracking dialogue that often results such such a format.
All in all, the writing is good, and there are some very well written and evocative bits. However, I don't recommend that anyone make it a point to read this one. More importantly, I don't recommend that any angsty teenagers read it at all... it's not likely to help (and could well hinder).
24 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unrealistic,
Okay, this book was not the be-all, end-all of YA literature that some previous reviewers seem to think it was. It wasn't complete trash - the author obviously made an attempt to tap into that crazy world we call adolescence.
However, it fell short of the mark for me, and I'll be fifteen in a week, so I think I would have some clue about what's really going on in our minds.
For one thing, Charlie's view of life was incredibly simplistic and did not leave a lot of room for self-revelation or growth of any kind. Basically, he was the nice, somewhat reserved guy who had the misfortune of watching other people foul up, until he joined them. Then, they still kept being human, you know, doing "teen" stuff, breaking up, getting high, except that he joined them and uncovered something painful and repressed about himself along the way. I won't say anything more plot-wise, but in terms of how "universal" this book is, I really don't see it. The characters seemed to serve no purpose except help (or sometimes not help) Charlie feel better about himself and the situations he was put through, which were, save for maybe two instances, ridiculously contrived.
If you're expecting Catcher in the Rye, forget it. This book does not even come close to touching Salinger's masterpiece, because of the predictable banality of its lead character, who seems to be a "prodigy" and yet doesn't come close to the writing talents of many sixteen year olds I know. Hell, I'm a year younger than the guy, and he makes ME look like Kafka.
There is nothing "universal" about transcribing events of adolescence that we may or may not have experienced. What makes Salinger (vs Chbosky) so great is he does so in a way that's actually realistic, i.e. hypocrisy, cynicism, and a view of life that isn't so Mister Rogers. Most of us can't be some kind of saints as days pass on this complicated, very unpredictable world.
The book just felt like it was set somewhere else, somewhere we've all seen before and yet doesn't really exist. It's not a completely wasted effort, as there were a few moments that were quite touching and unexpectedly so, but in my opinion, the author could take a few lessons from J.D. before spouting off another caricature.
21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Decent emotional arc marred by grating stereotypes,
Although Chbosky's debut novel remained fairly engaging--mainly because of its quick pace and simplicity--the characters all fell into familiar types, rather than being specific and emotionally moving. This flaw unfortunately ruins much of the book considering it tries to pass as a character driven story. Part of the problem comes from the book's narrative form--it's written in epistolatory form by a 9th grader. Although Chbosky mimics a 9th grader's language well, he shoots the story in the foot because the description of characters and situations usually come from abstractions and generalizations, which takes away from the characters significantly because they don't come across as specific humans, but rather as general character formulas.
Take Charlie's love interest Sam (female). She's a senior whose main function in the story is to look pretty and be sensitive to Charlie's obnoxious naivity (he's 16 and his naivity fluctuates at Chbosky's will for no reason). Or take Sam's brother, Patrick, a young man who conforms to every gay cliche possible, making him infinitely vague and stereotypical (gay cliche's including his love for The Village People and Blondie, his public performances as a drag queen in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and his nightly adventures in "the local park" where gay men annonymously meet for sex. Anyone halfway educated about gays know that "the local park" cliche is laughably dated and unrealistic). Charlie is like an expanded description of how uneducated straight America views the gay community, which is odd considering this novel's potential popularity with teens.
Anyway, the rest of the characters are flat as well--the brooding father, the perfect football-star older brother, the nice English teacher who sees the "real" Charlie.
"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" attempts to be smart by bombarding the reader with all too familiar teenage angst. All in all, the book was a quick, easy read, but left me without lasting images due to Chbosky's timidity with round characters and original storytelling.
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The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (Paperback - August 14, 2012)