The Perks of Being a Wallflower Paperback – February 1, 1999
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I walk around the school hallways and look at the people. I look at the teachers and wonder why they're here. If they like their jobs. Or us. And I wonder how smart they were when they were fifteen. Not in a mean way. In a curious way. It's like looking at all the students and wondering who's had their heart broken that day, and how they are able to cope with having three quizzes and a book report due on top of that. Or wondering who did the heart breaking. And wondering why.With the help of a teacher who recognizes his wisdom and intuition, and his two friends, seniors Samantha and Patrick, Charlie mostly manages to avoid the depression he feels creeping up like kudzu. When it all becomes too much, after a shocking realization about his beloved late Aunt Helen, Charlie retreats from reality for awhile. But he makes it back in due time, ready to face his sophomore year and all that it may bring. Charlie, sincerely searching for that feeling of "being infinite," is a kindred spirit to the generation that's been slapped with the label X. --Brangien Davis
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
- Lexile Measure : 720L
- Grade Level : 9 - 12
- Item Weight : 6.9 ounces
- Paperback : 213 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0671027344
- ISBN-13 : 978-0671027346
- Product Dimensions : 5 x 0.5 x 7 inches
- Publisher : MTV Books; First MTV Books/ Pocket Books Paperback Edition (February 1, 1999)
- Reading level : 14 - 17 years
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #65,043 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I was not put off or bothered by the sex, drinking, drugs, language or some of the other things which seemed to have burned some readers' eyes (although I will add that anyone who really believes these are not elements regularly encountered in the life of the average high school student has probably not been to high school since the days of one-room schoolhouses). My criticisms mostly have to do with the characterizations, almost exclusively centered on our main character and narrator, Charlie.
Charlie is a character who had a lot of possibilities, all mostly missed. He waffles between well-beyond-high-school profundity and confounding childishness. One minute he's pondering the meaning of life (with some real intuitiveness, sometimes) and the next he's wrapped up in some kind of nauseatingly twee description of something ("Do you know what a Secret Santa is?") And who, pray, is the "friend" on the other end of these letter entries? This "friend" whose persona would seem to have had enough rotations around the sun to know about sex, LSD, pot, heroin, etc., but has never heard of a Secret Santa or masturbation? Is this like the "Kitty" of Anne Frank's diary, or is this a real person? We never know, and the "Dear Friend" salutations and the "Love Always" closings quickly become tiresome, when at the outset the diary/letter approach seemed like a cool idea.
As other reviewers have asked, *is* Charlie meant to have some intellectual disability, or isn't he? In reading, it almost made me angry that I wasn't given enough evidence to form a conclusion, because that may or may not have formed my conclusions of the character -- or at the very least made me more forgiving of the way this character is drawn.
Worst of all, the crying! Charlie tells us "I started crying" so many times I lost count. The crying aside (if you can put it aside -- I really can't), it is impossible to tell whether the rudimentary descriptions of Charlie's feelings are devices on the part of the author, or are just egregious examples of a breaking with "show, don't tell." ("I wanted to be happy it was my birthday, but I felt upset." "...but I felt sad." "I was getting really upset.") It is simply not believable that the same character who is capable of a critical reading of "The Fountainhead" describes himself and his feelings as if he had just made a guest appearance on "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood." The result of all this messiness is a character that I not only didn't understand or sympathize with, but aggressively loathed.
It is also simply not believable that the group of "cool fringe kids," none of whom has a lot going for them either, depth-wise, would have the time of day for this sappy weirdo. By the time it was finally revealed that Charlie's past held a potential explanation for some of his feelings and behavior, I simply didn't care. I haven't disliked a central character this much in a long time, but the problem is I don't think the author intended him to be unlikable.
So, "Dear Friend," to each his own, but it's not my own!
That being said, I see no "perks" to "being a wallflower" at all. The kid is abused and allows/watches things happen to himself and others. I think the only attraction to this book must be to be a voyeur into a messed-up teenage boy's life.
The young man who recommended I read this book had a similar life, so I can understand why he related and loved it so much. My heart goes out to him and the author, who probably also lived through a similar situation.
Top reviews from other countries
Epistolary novels are not unusual; it's a well worn trope for a soul-revealing look at life. But WHO is Charlie supposed to be writing to? I was waiting for a big reveal, expecting a 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' type shocker where we'd find out that there either was no 'friend' or that the friend was his dead aunt, a past abuser, his psychiatrist or just anybody who actually had a part in the book. He refers to a psychologist but never clarifies WHY he sees one, hints at anger management issues and then turns into an avenging ninja when his friend is attacked. It's all just a bit of a mess. Throw in just about everything that could happen to a group of teens - drugs, alcohol, pregnancy, suicide......... - it's like the author had a check-list of big issues to shoe-horn into the story. Where was anorexia and bulimia? I think I missed those but the rest of the angst-bag was emptied out and thrown around.
It's not all bad. I enjoyed the friendship between Charlie, Sam and Patrick but even that had its dysfunctional elements. I enjoyed being reminded of the joy of the mixed tape - what DO teens do these days? Swap 'play lists'? I enjoyed some of the Rocky Horror Show reminders - but there was TOO much. And I liked the perspective of the child-like innocent observing and reporting.
I can see that arty teens will LOVE this book - just as generations before them loved 'Catcher in the Rye' but from what I recall, not that much actually happened in that either. Reviewers suggest the film may make more sense than the book. I'm really not sure that I can be bothered.
The first person narrative is very accessible, but it's the protagonist himself who you really come to appreciate with his observations and self-awareness (or lack of, sometimes). I find him very relatable and his experiences resonated with myself and many others who have read this book. We all go through struggles in our teenage years, some of them universal and some of them very personal.
Don't let the diary-format put you off. This is actually easy enough to read and doesn't set out to confuse the reader.
I struggled to get excited about this book. We know Charlie is a wallflower and was traumatised earlier in his life by what happened with Aunt Helen, and that he is coming of age in the early 1990's. Yet despite all this it didn't quite add up for me.
We spend a year with Charlie and all these events happen to him, yet not until the very end did he try and alter his behaviour or try and steer in a slightly different direction. It just seemed to be more of the same. I know when I was young and impressionable and wanted to please people I tried to act differently to fit in. Where as Charlie was very emotional, not afraid who saw him being emotional, and constant in his thoughts and actions.
I think I tired of the letter style too, as it became repetitive after a while. I hoped the recipient would be revealed at some point but frustratingly it never was. Here's my theories:
Surely nobody writes this many letters! I'd say Charlie was closest to Sam (love interest), then Patrick (friend), then Bill (teacher friend) - all above his family. He never referred to talking about these letters with any of his friends or family. So I was thinking maybe he was writing them to himself, but he did post them, and I'm sure he would have mentioned his family becoming suspicious at the amount of letters. There is chance he was using an alias so it wasn't Charlie at all, just another member of the group of friends? But that still doesn't answer who the recipient was. Whoever it was I also feel they would have made some effort to contact Charlie, or contact the polic e to block his mail, but neither happened!
I appreciate this book is aimed at young adult, and as a 40 something not aimed at me. But I hasten to add, I'm a massive, massive fan of Catcher in the Rye which is a similar style and age group, yet far superior in my opinion. I found 'Catcher' more genuine, witty and in a better writing style and format.
I’ve seen nothing but good things about this book but never given it a try. The internet is full of quotes from the story and I think you’d be hard pushed to find someone who’s never at least heard of the title (this book has more than 1 million ratings on Goodreads and the film was well reviewed too).
Charlie is a socially awkward freshman, writing letters to an unnamed friend. He tells his friend absolutely everything, from his homework assignments to his first erection and so much more.
Image result for the perks of being a wallflower
This is a short book, but it is packed with some difficult and heavy subjects including suicide, domestic abuse, drug use, rape and abortion.
I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I had wanted to, and I found the writing style and structure to be somewhat tiring. Charlie writes with innocence and the author has chosen his sentence structure and grammar to represent this. I understand the technique and have really enjoyed other books like this in the past, but on top of those tricky subjects, this didn’t make for an easy or enjoyable read.
“I don’t think that there is a favorite kid in our family. There are three of us and I am the youngest. My brother is the oldest. He is a very good football player and likes his car."
Another point I’m somewhat frightened to admit to you all is that I didn’t feel sad and I wasn’t really affected by this book in any way. Am I too cold-hearted? Probably! 🙈
I felt the story was a little too melodramatic for my tastes, but I certainly understand why people love it. I also give it huge credit for addressing these topics, especially those so increasingly faced by teenagers today. I think that if I had read this when I was younger, I’d probably have enjoyed it a lot more but at this point in my life, it wasn’t for me.
Overall rating: Contrary to popular opinion, I didn’t love “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and the writing style was most responsible for this. I didn’t hate it, but I just didn’t feel it was for me – 2 stars.
I've never met a single person - friend, blogger, librarian or bookseller - who has read 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' and not fallen in love. This is such a wonderful book, and it's perfect summer reading too. It's the coming-of-age story of a fifteen year-old boy called Charlie, told entirely in epistolary form via letters to an unnamed friend-of-a-friend. Quiet, introspective and naive, Charlie is surely one of the most loveable and achingly sweet characters I've ever come across in my reading life. It is his freshman year, and to his surprise his largely solitary existence is turned upside down when he is 'adopted' by worldly older stepsiblings Patrick and Sam. At the same time his English teacher, Bill, begins to draw him out of his academic shell with some well-timed encouragement. Slowly, his new friends nudge Charlie out into the big wide world, into a bountiful land of music and books, love and longing, parties and 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' - and stand beside him through the hardships that teenage life and his own past conspire to throw his way.
This is definitely going to be one of my favourite books of the year. I adored Charlie and found myself underlining things on almost every page as his thoughtful exploration of the world around him prompted me to stop and reflect. I also noted down dozens of movie, book and music references to check out later, which was a bit of an unexpected bonus! Through his letters we can see Charlie's style mature as he does, and our involvement becomes deeply personal because it feels like he's writing just for us. Chbosky's characters are complex and painfully real, and no one is all good or all bad, even Charlie himself. I think Patrick was my favourite, because he was all heart even when he wasn't necessarily doing the right thing! I loved Bill too - I think every student should have a Bill to see their strengths and provide a shining light of knowledge and hope during the difficult school years. Some really serious teen issues are discussed throughout the book - rape, drugs, gay identity, abuse - without ever feeling too heavy or gratuitous, and I can well understand the reputation it has gained as a positive, even life-saving cult classic for young readers.
The only thing I didn't like - and the reason for the half-star drop - were those occasional moments when I felt like my heart would break because SURELY no one could be so naive at fifteen? The book becomes quite difficult to read at times as Charlie's naivety is stripped away - this is the true meaning of the word 'bittersweet'! But it really is an unmissable novel. Charlie is such an intuitive character, and the writing is beautiful; he thinks outside the box and it's a pleasure to read! He is inspiring and generous, and accepts everything with a high level of tolerance and emotional intelligence, even if he is very childlike in other ways. There is something for everyone here, whether you are 15 or 50 - and I can't WAIT until 2013 when Chbosky's adaptation finally hits the big screens. I'll be first in line to laugh and cry all over again... :)