‘The Perks Of Being A Wallflower’ by Stephen Chbosky (1999) – Book Review

By Ciéra Cree – Due to university work and other personal endeavours, I have been placing far less time aside for leisurely reading and engrossing myself within the minds and hearts of…

By Ciéra Cree

‘So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there.’

Due to university work and other personal endeavours, I have been placing far less time aside for leisurely reading and engrossing myself within the minds and hearts of fictional characters. Honestly it’s something that I have missed, more so than I initially thought as highlighted by the completion of this book.

‘The Perks Of Being A Wallflower’ spent the last few months sitting among many other unread novels at home while I was off and away to study. A lovely friend of mine gave me a copy as a belated Christmas present after recommending it to me some time prior and I can safely say that the recommendation did not disappoint.

Warning: this review will contain slight spoilers.

A few noteworthy aspects of the book that took my fancy off-the-bat before delving into the narrative itself. I really appreciated the way that the book was split into four tangible sections of roughly equal length as opposed to being split into chapters. The first three segments are around fifty pages with the final chunk summing to somewhere close to seventy, plus a short epilogue. To me, as a reader, I found that these divisions functioned well as natural resting points within the story. I read the book in four sittings and, to anyone with that kind of time and dedication, I would totally encourage it. However, if that pace is too intense, rest assured that Chbosky has provided a more digestible method for you to consume his literature.

An artistic arrangement of ‘The Perks Of Being A Wallflower’ (1999).

The story itself is written as a series of letters addressed to a ‘dear friend’ so, if one prefers, the book can be read letter by letter instead of in four sections. There’s something that I find undeniably intriguing about books written in the format of letters, especially in the instance of this particular one. Who is the “friend”? And why is Charlie, the main character, even writing these letters in the first place?

Charlie is a highschool student with an evident introverted nature and a trail of internal struggles. On the surface I feel that a person could quickly judge Charlie as a bit of an outcast but the way that the book presents his mind to us through not only using it to illustrate his own perceptions, but also as a lens into the worlds of others, is truly remarkable. As a wallflower, he sees the intricacies and emotional details that others would often miss, and he will always question the ‘why’. Why are things a certain way and, on the contrary, why can’t they be another way?

To be honest the book itself isn’t the most meaty as it’s predominantly an exploration of addiction struggles, relationships and the mundane, but the enticing part for me was the way that we saw everything through an enhanced vision. I have never felt the way that I felt after reading this book. Something about it seemed to take me off guard, and the more that I read it the more that it made me think. It made me want to pick it up and start all over again. The pacing of the letters comprising the lives of Charlie and his friends was steady and the book as a whole wasn’t overly difficult to read but the way that it held a delayed impact is exceptionally clever and unexpected.

Our doors are opened to the opportunity to learn about Charlie’s heart and the people that he valued and held the closest in his life such as his passed Aunt Helen, his friend Patrick and his unrequited crush, Sam. We see their flaws, their smiles and their love of blasting handmade mixtapes that leave them ‘feeling infinite’ together in the back of Sam’s speeding pickup truck as it flies under their favourite bridge into the city. 

And we also see their pain, as well as the ways that they band together.

This book makes you think, and then think again. Who is Charlie? Why is this story being told? And, of course, who are these letters being addressed to? I have my theories about who I think it could be but I’ll leave that up to your speculation. 

Images: Ciéra Cree and Annie Spratt on Unsplash


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