The Perks of Being A Wallflower (Book) - Stephen Chbosky (1999)
Set in the early 1990s, the novel follows Charlie, an introverted observing teenager, through his freshman year of high school in a Pittsburgh suburb. The novel details Charlie's unconventional style of thinking as he navigates between the worlds of adolescence and adulthood, and attempts to deal with poignant questions spurred by his interactions with both his friends and family.
The Perks of being a wallflower is a beautiful story about friendship, love and discovering yourself. The movie was a critical success, and most people have seen it. However, most people haven’t read the book, and although they both have the same title and the broad plot points are the same, the book has a lot more to offer with the story. So, I’m not going to mention anything that isn’t in the movie, but if it is in the movie I will talk about it.
The book doesn’t centralise around a queer character, however Patrick does play a large role in the overall plot of the book. Chbosky doesn’t show Patricks coming out story, he is an openly gay character just living his life. Which isn’t what you would expect when looking at small town America in the 1990’s. But none the less it’s really nice to see a character who just embraces themselves and shows what an openly gay man can be. However, if you read the book or see the movie you’ll know about his boyfriend. The classic closeted jock, this could have been very boring and felt overused. However, I think Chbosky handled the situation elegantly and with style; for me it was his reasoning for not wanting to be open. It wasn’t losing popularity or something like that. It was because he was genuinely scared of his father, and what he would do. There was only one section I was didn’t agree with, when Charlie and him went on their car rides and he kissed him. It did slightly prey into the stereotype that gay men want to be with straight men, manipulate them, etc… and no-one likes that stereotype. This also felt like it didn’t add much to the story, so I’m not really sure why Chbosky put this in; not great.
This story is shocking, very upsetting, and at times hard to read. With each new reveal your heart drops and you gain more and more sympathy for the characters. They have all experienced some trauma, yet they all seem happy most of the time. Seeing characters that aren’t constantly weighed down by past mistakes is refreshing. It also adds more realism to the book. Allowing people like you and me to more closely relate. Some of the things that happen can be upsetting to people, but I think it’s important to just keep reading on; in the end it’s all worth it.
My only negative feedback for the book is the structure, it’s written as a series of letters. This is a very personal thing, some people may love the structure. But, I just found it annoying after a while. I think as a whole the book would have benefited from less letters and more real time description. Apart from that I can’t really fault the book.
It’s is heart wrenching and heart-warming, and as you have probably heard many times. One of the best coming of age stories ever written.