Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

we accept the love we think we deserve

happy valentine's day

title:  The Perks of Being a Wallflower

author: Stephen Chbosky

pages: 224

format: Paperback

isbn/asin: 978-1451696196

buy it: Amazon

rating: 5/5 [in the genre] or 10/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for:  People in love with Salinger, the 90s, John Green, sad British pop music, and love.  Fans of the movie who need the full story.  Lovers of 500 Days of Summer and the Brat Pack.

Charlie is a freshman.

And while he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.

Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can't stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up

the basics
The second coming of Holden Caulfield, or the first coming of Colin Singleton.  My very good friend took me to see the movie on one of the worst days of my year.  I was down in the dark and the stunning performances by Lerman, Watson, and Miller gave me a new life.  But I knew, as I'd known for a long time, that I had to read the book.  As soon as I finished it, I wanted to read it again.  Charlie is the sweetest, most and least broken character I've read, and also one of the truest.  Everyone has been him at some point, but there's also so much more that makes him an individual rather than a universal.  The plot is diary-like, the writing dreamlike and painting-beautiful.  It leaves you feeling like you've been punched in the gut, and somehow light and floating at the same time.  Perfect.

plot . 5/5
If you want all the answers, you'll be disappointed.  There are many gaps.  Many unsung scenes.  It's written as a diary in letters, which means that we see everything after-the-fact.  The ending is abrupt but perfect, and the pacing is great.  I'm having a hard time describing it without saying "great."  The events alternate between serious, highschool normal, and even a little whimsical.  Symbols are woven in with such subtlety that you can read deep if you want or simply enjoy the ride and let them sink in.  It's like reading someone's brain, or living it.

concept . 5/5
Salinger already took the angsty teen crown, and you could say that Goethe did it even longer before.  That doesn't mean that Chbosky doesn't make it new.  His is one of the best explorations of mental illness out there, on par with Girl, Interrupted, with an authenticity and a voice that few authors can claim.  The diary in letters is certainly new.  Charlie writes to an unknown person whose identity is never revealed.  We don't know what this person thinks of the letters.  How they're involved.  How we would react to receive such letters.  And it also reveals so much about Charlie's character and his desire for closeness that he would write his diary to another person instead of an invisible other.  This theme permeates the story.  Everyone is looking for love--the lasting, true kind, that seems so hard to find.

characters . 5/5
Of course Charlie steals the show.  He's part a child, part a wise old man, longing for connections that he just can't seem to find.  He reminds you of that part of you back in middle school when you were dorky and bespectacled and just wanted a friend.  (Or was that just me?)  But he's by no means the only star of the show.  Sam and Patrick are real in their own right.  Sam is a foil to Charlie's sister, a wise mentor and also a scared girl looking for a love she doesn't feel worthy of.  Patrick is at once a trailblazer and a scared little boy.  The other characters get less screen time, but they're no less real for it.  There are worlds in each of their heads that you could jump into if you wanted, and seeing them through Charlie's sympathetic eyes, we find new facets that even they might never see in themselves.

style . 5/5
I could quote every line, turn it into a song or an inspiration wall art.  Actually I did that already.  But basically, it's beautiful.  Charlie's voice, first person, has the wisdom of a poet, the beauty of a painting, and an innocence that is childlike, refreshing, and allows you to see the world in ways you never thought you could.

mechanics . 5/5
Could I possibly complain?  Everything is perfect.  As I mentioned, the diary-letter format is brilliant.  Are you sick of me gushing yet?  Go read it!

take home message
A letter from the mind of a troubled teen to all the insecurities, the ones you know and the ones you never knew you had.

Note: I purchased this copy.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


  1. No wonder the movie is good, the book sounds real solid. I moe coming of age stories because my own wasn't as good so I live it through books instead LOL

    1. Chbosky wrote the screenplay for the movie too, so that's why it was extra awesome. HA, I think I've lived half my life through books. (: