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Customer Review

82 of 109 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Painful and True, January 11, 2001
This review is from: The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Paperback)
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.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 20, 2006 3:09:37 PM PST
mogwit says:
Charlie is not "ill" - just mentally different. Unstable, yes. Ill, no. Havin a psychiatric disorder 24/7 does not make him ill.
(And many more 15-year-olds than you might know are like that...)

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2007 4:44:06 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 6, 2007 4:44:28 PM PDT
Porsche says:
It still qualifies as an illness. By your way of logic, people who've had cancer most or all of their lives aren't really "ill".

Posted on Jan 30, 2008 8:57:34 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 30, 2008 9:06:28 PM PST
M. Derby says:
There are varying opinions as to what constitutes mental illness.

The diagnostic manual for mental health professionals, DSM (version 4 revised, with version 5 in the works...it keeps getting bulkier) lists an astounding number and variety of mental illnesses, such that one imagines almost anyone could meet the diagnostic criteria for something.

A tiny minority agree with the position of radical psychiatrist Thomas Szasz that the concept of mental illness is an elaborate fiction, providing society with a method of categorizing and controlling people who behave in unusual ways.

What most people think of as mental illnesses are the big four: anxiety, depression, mania and schizophrenia. It seems likely that most people seeking treatment have one or more of these conditions. Mania isn't often diagnosed alone; it is the "up" side of bipolar disorder, which used to be called manic depression (and of course the "down" side is depression). I've met unlucky souls who are schizophrenic and bipolar, a combination referred to as "schizo-affective disorder".

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is now much more recognized as a distinct category, although it could be thought of as an unusually severe form of anxiety (also accompanied by depression, or self-harm, sleep disorders, physical symptoms etc.)

Then there are the personality disorders, so numerous I couldn't begin to list them all. For example, young people who disobey their parents and other authority figures are diagnosed with "oppositional defiant disorder", and there is an analogous diagnosis for adults who repeatedly commit crimes.

Personality disorders are a controversial category: given their vast scope, and the fact that the names of the illnesses--and the reasons for diagnosis--change so much over time. There are political aspects to the process of deciding who is mentally ill, and why.

The diagnostic criteria may differ depending on the age of the patient. In the case of depression, it's readily observable that children who are depressed react in a greater variety of ways than adults, making it more difficult to diagnose. This is unfortunate because severe, untreated depression is the most common reason for people to attempt or commit suicide.

One question provokes the most debate: is mental illness a reaction to the circumstances of one's life, or are some people inherently susceptible? My intuition says, "It depends on who, and at what time in their lives."

I have a personal stake in these issues. I've been extremely anxious all my life, and (since my late elementary school years) have frequently struggled with depression.

Charlie is almost certainly prone to major depression, and would probably be considered to have PTSD. We won't mention the source of his trauma, because not everyone has read the book yet.

Sadly, the stigma of mental illness dissuades people from seeking help (whereas it seems unlikely someone would be ashamed of having a broken bone, or try to hide the fact). It is inhumane and irrational that most health insurers limit coverage for mental disorders, including greater limits on outpatient treatment (the majority of patients neither require hospitalization, nor do they want it). It was almost 20 years before someone recognized my symptoms and convinced me to seek treatment. Denial can be powerful; I didn't know it wasn't normal to feel hopeless, or to wish I could find the courage or decisiveness to put an end to what often seemed a meaningless and painful life.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 25, 2008 2:42:01 PM PDT
J says:
P.S. Holden Caulfield was ill, mentally ill, depressed, etc...
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