Book: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Author: Stephen Chbowky
I just finished reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower, so I figured I would write a little review. After all, I have an MA in literary studies. Fret not, though, I will try to keep this as non-academic as I can, which is probably still a bit pedantic.
First off, I admit I am one of those people who had never even heard of this novel until the film came out. As I visit the art house cinema in town as often as the regular cinema, I did not miss the film coming out. I did, however, entirely miss the handful of screenings the art house offered. Fortunately for me, another nearby art house offered a screening some 3 months later and I completely succeeding in attending that one! Just to finish this introduction, which is getting too long, just suffice to know that I very much enjoyed the film and immediately went out to buy the book (or actually I stayed in, because I ordered it on amazon).
So, the first thing to notice about The Perks of Being a Wallflower is that it is actually an epistolary novel, which is a novel written as a series of documents. One of the most classic and effective examples, in my opinion, is Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1898). Perks is different from Dracula, though, in the sense that it is more of a diary-type epistolary novel. In other words: we only get Charlie’s unique point of view.
Personally, I strongly identified with Charlie. I read reviews on Goodreads of people who find him a flat character, a character that doesn’t make sense or who just plain hate him. I disagree with all of those things. Others have said that his intelligence versus his (partial) social inadequacy is due to the fact that he is autistic. I disagree with that interpretation, too. To me, he is just a really smart kid (and who suffered a trauma, adding his emotional instability). As I read it, Charlie simply doesn’t have an intuitive sense of social interaction (although he is naturally extremely kind), but because he is so smart he has learned some of the rules just by observing the world or reading enough books. The combination of the rules he learned and his natural kindness results in, among others, his astonishing present-buying skills. But his lack of grasping common social interaction intuitively leaves him clueless in much simpler situations. Heck, I’m 25 and I still don’t grasp why people, for instance, want to sit in a pub for hours at a time. But I have learned that it is important to buy great gifts, to ask people about their day, their plans, to give them compliments. So I understand Charlie and I feel for him.
Apart from Charlie, I think my favourite character was Bill. Seriously, how awesome a teacher is he?! Actually taking the time to find and discuss more challenging work for Charlie. I suppose I am actually kind of jealous… 🙂 In fact, I am kind of jealous of Charlie’s friends, too. They are extremely kind to him. So kind, in fact, that they seem to have nothing to do with the real world. And yet that doesn’t matter. They are believable in the book.
So, overall I loved the book. It did not immerse me as completely as a (very) few other books have done (I will not betray their titles), but I was eager to continue reading. I thought the writing was witty, albeit a bit simple. The story was shocking at the end, and well-developed throughout, just like the characters. All in all, I give it 4/5 stars.