Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I have a bad habit of spoiling stories for people, I don’t mean to do it, sometimes things just slip out. In my head, the things I say don’t seem like spoilers to me: a small detail about a character or something that happens within the first few moments of a book. These things seem unimportant to me but carry the potential to ruin a story entirely for somebody else. Just last week I let slip a detail about Fahrenheit 451, that although seemed trivial to me, the person on the receiving end entered a state of emotional shock and acted as if I had just told her some life altering dark secret. I won’t repeat what I told her here, just in case you haven’t read the first chapter of a book that came out sixty-six years ago.

The problem is, that I assume things about people, like if you read books, I automatically assume that there are a number of books that you must have read. Just how everybody assumes that everyone has seen Star Wars, listened to Abbey Road, or watched Breaking Bad. I will assume that if you are a book reader, you’ll know what happens at the end of Of Mice and Men, even if you haven’t read it (sorry Phoebe).

When it comes to The Perks of Being a Wallflower, it’s worth mentioning that this book was “spoiled” for me by the movie. I already knew all about Charlie and the twists and turns he goes through along the way. But did that ruin the experience? Was my reading of the book a lesser experience by knowing what happens? Was this book “spoiled” for me?

No, no, no, never in a million years.

Now don’t get me wrong, I loved the movie: the casting was perfect, the key scenes came across magnificently and overall it was a treat to watch. It was perfect adaption of the book. However, the book has so much more to offer.

I found myself connecting on a deep emotional level with Charlie, despite the story taking place in early 90s, despite being set in an America, despite Charlie being a sixteen-year-old high schooler, I was right there alongside him, finding myself relating to him every step of the way. He’s such a genuine character, it’s almost impossible not to grow attached to him. My favourite Charlie moment is when he is asked what his favourite book is, his answer is This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Why? Because it was the last book he read.

The epistolary form used throughout only cements the bonds between Charlie and the reader: we hear his thoughts, we discover his deepest desires and we learn his truths. There’s nothing unique about the form, and Chbosky unapologetically makes multiple references to Catcher in the Rye (another book I assume that all book readers have read). There are certainly comparisons to be made between Holden Caulfield and Charlie, but there are equally as many differences between them too.

There is an overarching story which for the most part is irrelevant; it’s not about the story. What is important are the characters and the connections that Charlie forms throughout the story, connections with family, friends and lovers. The characters feel honest and genuine, and each one of them is their own distinct person with their own lives and issues. I mentioned earlier that Charlie is relatable and I really do mean it, I believe that everybody who reads this book will find some way to connect with him.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower was originally published in 1999 and is considered by many to be a classic, myself included. In fact, I’ve just added it to the list of books that I assume people have read. So I would advise you get out and read it soon before I accidentally spoil it for you!

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