The Perks of Being a Wallflower
London, Simon and Schuster, 2012, 231p
I purchased this book for my school library at a student's recommendation, and read it due to the same student's feedback. It is an beautifully touching novel, but equally, it is challenging and tragic.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is about Charlie, who is starting high school, full of the concerns of every teenager on their first day. Charlie is different - he is quiet and cautious - he is a wallflower. He also suffers from bouts of depression. He is highly emotional, often breaking down into tears. But he is adopted by Sam and Patrick, who offer him friendship and belonging.
Charlie is a brilliant character. He is socially awkward, but full of love for those around him - for his family and his friends. He reads a lot, which, of course, I adore. Like me, and so many other book lovers, Charlie thinks every book is his favourite book, until he reads another. Chbosky describes each novels Charlie reads, telling us his thoughts and feelings.
The story tackles the challenging subject of mental health. It begins with Charlie describing the death of a school friend; and throughout, Charlie encounters people with low self-esteem, struggling to find happiness. Charlie himself suffers loss and sadness, experiments with drugs, and questions himself - but not in the stereotypical angsty teenage sense.
Stephen Chbosky is a brilliant writer. The book is in the first-person, presented through Charlie's letters; and the student who recommended this book to me pointed out that Charlie's writing improves throughout the story - as he reads and experiences more, his vocabulary and structure develop and his confidence grows. In this way, Chbosky brings Charlie to life, like a real teenage boy, changing and blossoming.
I read this book incredibly fast, and, even whilst writing this, feel a little shaken by its beauty and sadness. But it's the kind of novel that makes me feel like everything is going to be okay.
At the end of the novel, Charlie writes,
"if I ever have kids, and they are upset, I won't tell them that people are starving in China... Even if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn't really change the fact that you have what you have. ... It's just different."Sometimes, it can be incredibly hard to remember that. I feel this novel might stay with me for a while.