Just finished reading “Perks of Being a Wallflower”.
It’s a really sad book, I can tell you that.
The book starts with a letter written by the main character Charlie telling us that tomorrow is his first day of high school, and he’s so nervous because he doesn’t know what to expect. He doesn’t have many friends, and his best friend from middle school committed suicide while his other friend Susan has changed so much since then that they no longer talk anymore.
It is sad because Charlie such a sweet yet awkward character who is deeply troubled by his past. He doesn’t have anyone to talk to, and everyone else basically thinks he’s a freak, until he meets Patrick and Sam. Patrick and Sam are brothers and sisters but they are not blood-related. Charlie makes friends with them on the first day of school and since then, they have been through a lot of heart-felt moments. Despite the fact that Patrick and Sam are a few years older than Charlie, they get along very well. They don’t care what other people think about them which makes Charlie very comfortable around them. “Perks of Being a Wallflower” then revolves around Charlie and his high school life, the friends he makes, the people he meets, the parties he goes to…
Charlie is very introverted but is also very considerate, thoughtful and insightful. He pays a lot of attention to details but is humble enough to keep all these secrets to himself. He stands up for his friends and is willing to do anything for them. He is torn between the feelings that he has and what he thinks others expect of him to behave. In a way, I think Charlie represents a certain period in everyone’s adolescent years. A period when a lot of issues are laid down in front of you and yet you have no idea how to deal with them… All the sex, drugs, parties, relationships, lies, feelings, family, identity crises…
And during that time, when we are facing all those problems, some of the things that we always turn to are our friends and music. Patrick and Sam are the two things that Charlie holds on to when he is feeling sad, which is a lot of the times. In the book, he tells the readers that he used to be really sad for quite some time and was hospitalized until his condition was stable again and was allowed to go back to school. Charlie is always sad and depressed but readers don’t find out what happened to him until the very end of the book. I think the bond that Charlie has with Patrick and Sam is something that we all wish we had during our high school years. We wish we had someone to rely on during our teenage years and to feel “infinite” with. We wish we had someone by our side and not judge the actions we did, or the mistakes we made. In a way, we just want a “wallflower” as Patrick puts it, a person who can just sit there and listen to us talk about our feelings, and not be judgmental, not have opinions, and just be a “friend”.
A lot of the other themes and motifs in the book are very meaningful and I’m sure a lot of us can relate to. For example, mixtapes, pop songs, parties and cigarettes. They all signify youthfulness and energy, recklessness and mindlessness. I’m sure there was a time that we made mixtapes for our crushes, listened to pop songs and thought that the lyrics were talking about ourselves, and cried to them when our bf/gf broke up with us, went to parties where we drank a little too much, and maybe smoked our first cigarette because we thought it was cool.
None of that is inherently wrong or right because nobody was there to witness the whole story and understand what you were feeling at that particular moment. And essentially, “Perks of Being a Wallflower” is just a a story of a bunch of youngsters trying to find themselves in a world of confusion and the turbulent youth that makes so many unforgettable yet sometimes regretful memories, ones we wish never happened because they were so embarrassing but also ones that we wouldn’t give up in a million years.
This is perhaps one of the most powerful books that I’ve ever read. The language used in the book is really plain and simple, so it feels like you’re actually reading someone else’s diary or letter and listening to a friend. Yet, the book touches on some serious social issues like bullying, suicide, sexual assault, depression, relationships, teenage pregnancy, etc. To a lot of us, high school is an important phase in our lives. And cleverly, Stephen Chbosky uses this period of time which most people consider significant as a threshold and presents to us a bunch of serious questions and events in a nonchalant way to sarcastically demonstrate how crazy things can get at such an early time of our lives. I can’t say I have gone through what Charlie has been through when I was a teenager, but I can definitely relate to more than a handful of things. I’m glad that period of my life was over, but I’m also glad it happened.