The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Review

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky, is a coming-of-age story about a 15-year-old boy named Charlie. It’s written in the form of letters that Charlie addresses to “dear friend,” although we never learn who the friend is.

Charlie is just starting high school and is feeling a bit insecure about many things — a bit of a wallflower, you could say. How is Charlie a wallflower? Well, as one of his friends puts it, “You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.”

Charlie is indeed observant, and is a deep thinker, and is emotional (his almost-daily crying was starting to get on my nerves, although at the very end a probable reason for this is given. So I’m giving him a pass on that). Honestly, some of the things he muses about felt very familiar to me. So maybe I’m similar to Charlie — or maybe his thoughts are more or less universal:

  • “I walked over to the hill where we used to go and sled. There were a lot of little kids there. I watched them flying. Doing jumps and having races. And I thought that all those little kids are going to grow up someday. And all those little kids are going to do the things we do. And they will all kiss someone someday. But for now, sledding is enough. I think it would be great if sledding were always enough, but it isn’t.”
  • After watching “It’s a Wonderful Life:” “I just wanted the movie to be about Uncle Billy because he drank a lot and was fat and lost the money in the first place. I wanted the angel to come down and show us how Uncle Billy’s life had meaning. Then, I think I’d feel better.”
  • “I almost didn’t get an A in math, but then Mr. Carlo told me to stop asking why all the time and just follow the formulas. So, I did. Now, I get perfect scores on all my tests. I just wish I knew what the formulas did. I honestly have no idea.”

I really liked Charlie; he seemed like a caring, sensitive kid. He hangs out with a pretty rough crowd, or at least they seemed that way to me. Books like this tend to surprise me with their language, drug use, immoral situations, etc. — I really didn’t encounter things like this when I was growing up, and I don’t know if that’s pretty normal, or if I was just especially sheltered.

We follow Charlie through his freshman year of high school. Many things happen, most not especially earth-shattering, but they seem like huge deals to Charlie, because he’s growing up. This book will take you back to some of the things you felt as a teen. It reminds me of a Robert Southey quote I like:
“Live as long as you may, the first twenty years are the longest half of your life. They appear so while they are passing; they seem to have been so when we look back on them; and they take up more room in our memory than all the years that succeed them.”  True, that.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Banned Book

At the back of the book I read that it was on a list of books frequently banned in schools. I get it, because of the things I mentioned earlier. I’m not big into censoring what teens read. I have given my own teens pretty much free reign with their reading, because I’ve read a wide variety of books myself and don’t feel I’ve been tainted by any — knowledge is power, and all that — and yet, I would be uncomfortable with teens reading this book in a classroom setting. I certainly wouldn’t want to be teaching/discussing parts of it with a group of teens, that’s for sure. And, it’s a shame. Because many aspects of the book are excellent.

4 thoughts on “The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Review

  1. It’s refreshing to hear an otherwise conservative Mom say she doesn’t interfere with her kids’ reading–so many today do it seems. The Robert Southey is great–I’d never heard that. As for being sheltered, it wasn’t as bad when we were in school, but I imagine your parents being in the schools made some people censor themselves at the lunch table or on the band bus or where ever…. 🙂

  2. Thanks for a great review. When I saw the book’s title, I assumed it was about a girl being a wallflower since I heard that term a lot when I was growing up (in the dark ages!!). Boys back then would have never been labeled a wallflower! Times change.

  3. If I had children, I’m not so sure I would want them to read things about immorality, drug use, and using foul language. But I recognize that I’m far more conservative than you are. I sure wouldn’t want to discuss these things in a classroom setting.

  4. Very interesting review! In my awkward pre-teen and teen years, I was pretty much a wallflower type myself. Since I am 6 years older than my brother, it was almost like we were separate only children. Therefore, I liked listening to the adult conversations that my parents and their friends had. I used to listen to the downstairs talk after my bedtime by listening through a register from upstairs. It was big enough that I could also see most of the principal players sitting right below me at the family kitchen table. After my father died a bit before my 12th birthday, I became even more introverted for awhile. All of my friends still had their fathers, and often I just didn’t know what to say to grown-up men. Finally, in college I overcame the introvert and turned myself into an extrovert. That was so much more fun!

Comments are closed.