Book Review

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Publisher: Simon & Schuster | Genre: Young Adult Romance, Epistolary

A very thought provoking story about an 'unusual' teenager who over-thinks and over-analyses. Charlie's character, along with his best friends and most of his family, feel very three dimensional and real.

Title: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Author: Stephen Chbosky

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Genre: Young Adult Romance, Epistolary

First Publication: 1999

Language: English

Major Characters: Charlie, Mr. Anderson, Brad, Patrick, Sam

Setting Place: Pittsburgh suburbs

Theme: Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health, Relationships and Intimacy, Adolescence and Transformation

Narrator: First person through Charlie’s perspective

 

Book Summary: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is an epistolary novel, where the narrator is a young introvert boy called Charlie. The story revolves around series of letters written by Charlie to an anonymous person mentioning his experiences. Though shy and sensitive in nature, Charlie is an intelligent boy with unconventional thinking capabilities. His first letters starts with Charlie mentioning about suicide of his Middle School’s friend and death of his favourite aunt Helen and how these tragic incidents have took toll in his life.

Charlie befriends two seniors Patrick and Sam and ends up indulging in alcohol and other drugs with Sam. In the meantime, Charlie also learns about his sister having relationship with an abusive guy and eventually getting pregnant. The flashback of his aunt dying in car crash stops haunting Charlie, as he starts enjoying company of his friends and Sam. While playing Truth and Dare, he is asked to kiss the prettiest girl in the room; he kisses Sam for which he faces neglect from the group.

“And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”

Flashback returns. Will Charlie be ever able to get control over his life? Will he be able to get his friends back? What turns did Charlie’s life take and how he battled to overcome it? A story filled with drama and lots of emotions, including, friendship, first love and sexuality- The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

 

Major Characters: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Charlie: The fifteen-year-old protagonist of The Perks of Being a Wallflower book. The story of The Perks of Being a Wallflower is told entirely from Charlie’s point of view. The book is told by a series of letters written by Charlie to an anonymous “friend”. Charlie is a shy, reserved, and intelligent high school freshman who has seen a great deal of stress in his youth. Charlie emerges from his shell through the relationships he forms throughout the school year, but it isn’t until the very end of the book that he discovers the repressed memories of sexual abuse at the heart of all the trauma he has been processing the entire time.

Patrick: Sam’s stepbrother and one of Charlie’s closest friends in high school. He has an open friendship with Brad, the football team’s quarterback. Patrick accepts Charlie and all of his quirks and gives him the confidence to be himself.

Sam: Patrick’s stepsister and one of Charlie’s closest friends in high school. Throughout the novel, Charlie has a massive crush on Sam. Sam was sexually assaulted as a child, which links her to Charlie, but neither knows it until the very end of the book.

 

Book Review - The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stepher Chbosky

Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

In August of 1991 fifteen-year-old Charlie begins writing letters about his life to a stranger who he thinks will listen and understand. He doesn’t want this person to know who he is, so he has changed all the names of the people in his life. Charlie has a tendency to over think things, and prefers to look on from the side-lines than to participate. As he starts high school, he is still trying to get over the recent suicide of his best friend Michael. Charlie soon befriends Patrick and Sam and is introduced to their friends. Their world is one full of sex, drugs, love, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, mixed tapes, and moments that make you feel infinite.

Charlie is easily the most honest and insightful teenage narrator I can think of. He thinks about and questions everything, and looks at things in a unique way. He is very naïve and innocent as the novel begins, making his voice distinctive and unlike the average teenager. The writing style of The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky reminds me a bit of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and The Catcher in the Rye.

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”

Stephen Chbosky was influenced by Holden Caulfield while writing this book, and he pays homage to that by having Charlie read The Catcher in the Rye. Charlie’s English teacher Bill assigns him extra novels to read and write about throughout the school year. Charlie’s favourite book is always the last one he has read, and I liked the discussion of books, movies and music throughout the novel. All those things were a huge part of my teenage years, and I always like to see them mentioned in books.

Charlie’s friends and family felt very realistic to me. Charlie is very flawed and both Bill and Sam point out how he needs to participate and not put others before him. Although there are perks to being a wallflower, Charlie needs to stop watching from the sidelines. The ending of The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky was surprising and gave insight on why Charlie is the way he is.

“It’s strange because sometimes, I read a book, and I think I am the people in the book.”

After I finished reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky the second time, I tried to put my finger on what makes this book special. It wasn’t the great quotes or the characters, but how poignant this book is. What makes me love The Perks of Being a Wallflower is how real the emotions in this book feel. A lot of the things that happened to Charlie have never happened to me, but while reading this book it felt as if they had.

What can I say other than if you did not read this book yet, then you are missing one of the greatest books ever written.


Quotes from The Perks of Being a Wallflower

“We accept the love we think we deserve.”

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”

“Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody.”

“And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”

“There’s nothing like deep breaths after laughing that hard. Nothing in the world like a sore stomach for the right reasons.”

“So, I guess we are who we are for alot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.”

“It’s strange because sometimes, I read a book, and I think I am the people in the book.”


 

Differences Between The Perks Of Being A Wallflower Movie And Book

The Perks of Becoming a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is a brief, tidy novel told in a one-sided epistolary style, with our protagonist Charlie narrating the story through letters to an anonymous friend. The movie adaptation of The Perks Of Being A Wallflower expands on Charlie’s story, showing him from a different angle while retaining the letter-writing format’s dignity. This means that a lot of the introduction material has to be changed somewhat, but the material that remains hits all of the right notes.

Most of the credit for the film’s tight transition goes to Stephen Chbosky, who wrote the script and then directed it onscreen. Mostly, novelists have no input about how their works are adapted, which is why the movie adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower is so special. Charlie, Patrick, and Sam are Chbosky’s darlings, and rather than passing them over to anyone else, he lets them shine even more on the big screen.

The majority of the inconsistencies between the book and film adaptation of The Perks of Becoming a Wallflower are successful, but this is because the most of the modifications are subtle and not to alter the plot’s general direction. The below are the seven most noticeable differences I found during my screening of The Perks of Being a Wallflower movie.

  • Charlie is a bit funnier, a little bolder, and a little less wallowy. We get to see Charlie’s charming way of extrapolating interactions with his friends and we are not trapped in his mind for the duration of the movie. He also alludes to all the strange thoughts running through his mind, but since this isn’t the only part of Charlie we can see, the audience’s emotional state is much more reserved.
  • Charlie’s family appears in the film, but they are largely omitted from the storyline for the sake of time and narrative flow. As a result, we see less of his sister’s distress. One of the most harrowing scenes in the novel happens when Charlie’s sister is hit by her boyfriend, and the power dynamics in their relationship shift as a result. The incident is still shown in the film, but it is much less significant to the storyline.
  • We get a glimpse at Charlie’s instructor Bill’s classroom complexities. Sure, Charlie mentions Bill’s lessons in the novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but in the movie, we get to see Bill as a more complex character. He always gets to say the epic “We accept the love we think we deserve” line, but he also gets to ask dumb summer reading questions. He’s always Charlie’s coach, but he’s still just a guy hoping to instil some interest in his pupils.
  • Patrick lights the screen on fire. In the book The Perks of Being a Wallflower, we know Patrick is outspoken, a bit loud, and has a wonderful rapport with Sam. However, Ezra Miller’s Patrick has great comedic timing and is incredibly funny, particularly in a few new details that appear in the movie, such as the pink shop class instruments. Miller, rather than anybody else, gives life to a character we’ve only ever seen through Charlie’s eyes.
  • There are more religious overtones in the movie than in the novel. We don’t know much about Charlie’s extended family, and we never see his racist grandfather, so Chbosky introduces Catholicism to draw out the environment Charlie grew up in. It’s strange, because in the novel, Charlie clearly believes in God, but his parents aren’t religious. The addition of faith offers the atmosphere a somewhat different background, but it also provides Chbosky with a simple way to transition from scene to scene.
  • Charlie’s last Christmas gift to Patrick, a suicidal, heartbreaking poem, is cut out. The poem isn’t really relevant to the story. It’s too long to read in its entirety onscreen, but it’s a pivotal point in Charlie’s life and relationship with Sam, Patrick, Mary Elizabeth, Alice, and Bob. The film isn’t worse without the poem Charlie reads, but those who have read the book may find it lacking.

Overall, Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Becoming a Wildflower has a wonderful cast and is a wildly successful movie that captures the ache and grandeur of growing up in the suburbs in the early 1990s seamlessly by retaining all of the crucial moments in Charlie’s timeline and telling us more of our beloved side characters onscreen.


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