One of my daughters recently bought The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and read it in a day. She liked it a lot and suggested I read it too, so I did. It is a quick read and even though I am certainly not a teenager anymore, I definitely related to the story and the characters in it.
The book is written as an epistolary, where the protagonist, Charlie, writes letters to an unknown friend detailing his thoughts and experiences as he tries to fit in with his high school friends. Charlie is a classic introvert, and since I am also introverted, I really connected with him. I think that people who are not introverts don’t understand what it is like to be one. I suspect that they feel introverts are unsocial, weird, or that we just don’t like to talk. This is absolutely not the case. I like to talk, and if you read my blog, you know I always have something to say. Introverts like myself are just not assertive in a group, and the more people who are around us, the less we tend to talk. We like to listen and observe. We are very comfortable being wallflowers. As Charlie describes it, it is sitting “alone at a party and still feeling a part of things.” (p. 172)
The aspect of this book that I found to be most brilliant is the way the author forces the reader into the role of wallflower, thereby letting the reader experience first hand how it feels to be an introvert. Charlie presents the unknown friend (the reader) with his experiences, thoughts, and ideas. The reader then takes on the role of introvert, not actively participating, but quietly observing what transpires, being the person to whom others talk. The reader begins to understand how it feels to be Charlie. It really works well and written any other way, the book would have fallen short, in my opinion.
I also really loved the relationship between Charlie and his English teacher, Bill. Bill recognizes that Charlie is gifted and seeks to challenge him by giving him certain books to read. Now, as a book nerd, what others read and their thoughts on books is a source of infinite fascination for me, so following Charlie’s reading list and his impressions of the books was very interesting. Also, the fact that I have read all but a few of the books that he was assigned made it that much more engaging for me. Sorry–you will have to guess which books I have not read (yet).
I recommend this book for everyone. Parents should read it to be reminded of what it’s like to be a teenager and the issues that young people have to deal with. Teenagers should read it so they can learn that it is OK to be different, and most importantly, that it is important to have someone with whom you can be open and talk about the deep, dark secrets, because keeping them bottled up inside will only cause additional problems.