The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Genre: YA Contemporary
Read: 9/26/2012 — 9/30/2012
In Six Words: Fell short of my high expectations.
Standing on the fringes of life… offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.
This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
This is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.
Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up.
Why I Started Reading This Book and Final Verdict
It’s always difficult to review a book when so many people love it and you…don’t. Because so many people have praised this book, I went into reading fully expecting to be blown away. I was not. In fact, the first time I attempted to read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I made it about 100 pages in, and then gave up. That was last year. With the book being made into a movie, I decided that it was time to try again. Sadly, the second time was not really any better than the first other than I actually finished the book this time.
First, I don’t deal with ambiguity or vagueness very well. So, contemporary books that have no main driving plot line other than one year of high school don’t sit well with me. I like books that have one central problem that the main character seeks to solve or address throughout the course of the book. Though I suppose you could argue that fitting in or surviving high school was the central problem, it was not enough for me. I did not feel the drive to move forward with the book. It was too easy to put down.
Second, I found it very difficult to relate to Charlie. His world and mine are so completely different that it was a struggle to understand his motives. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had my own issues with fitting in and finding myself and participating in life, so I relate to that overall arc. But I battled with those issues from the perspective of someone who has social anxiety. Charlie may be socially awkward and clumsy, but he’s not socially anxious. This is an important distinction for me to make because awkwardness and clumsiness are not the same as anxious. Furthermore, Charlie struck me as someone who was very naive. I wasn’t a very worldly teenager, either, but again, I just couldn’t relate to Charlie.
The part that frustrated me the most was how the issues teens face were addressed. Were many issues addressed? Yes, definitely. Is it good to address these? YES. But I felt that these issues were only briefly skimmed over. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the perfect book for opening dialogue with teenagers. But as an adult reader who wanted an exploration of these issues (and who has no teenagers in her life to open up dialogue with), the issues only skimmed the surface of what could have been covered. Why does teen pregnancy–for example–only get one, maybe two, letters? There was so much left unsaid. I expected more. I wanted more.
That said, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is not a bad book. It just wasn’t the book for me. The writing is good. For the right reader, it will be engaging and funny and amazing. I was not that reader. It’s also possible that all the hype worked against me. I expected something life changing. I didn’t get that.