Wednesday 3 April 2013

The Perks of Being A Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky

It's Charlie's first day at high school and he's a little bit apprehensive about it. Hi older brother is off to college and his sister would like the world to be unaware of the fact that they are related. Unlike his successful siblings he isn't popular. His best friend killed himself the year before and their other friend has a whole new set of friends and would like to forget the years before. Charlie is too shy to make new friends and feels awkward doing it but has promised his favourite teacher to join in. This is where he meets Patrick and Sam. Although they are seniors they accept Charlie and he becomes a part of their group. Through them he experiences acceptance for the first time. It gives him a way of forgetting his past and putting those demons away. Problem is when things don't go well for Charlie they want to come out and haunt him.

This is one of those books I wish I had read as a teenager but still enjoyed now. I think I would have loved it back then. I was awkwardly shy at times and could in some way relate to Charlie. Charlie is a great character. You read some of these recent YA books and the teenagers don't sound like teenagers. Not so with Charlie. Although he is bright it wasn't hard to believe that he was 15. His language and emotional maturity seemed about right for his age. He didn't have the Dawson Creek factor. The book is written in the form of letters to a stranger. We never do find out who that stranger is but that's kind of the point. Charlie needs to talk to someone who isn't in his life and this way we see his first year at high school unfold.

As for the other characters I loved them too. Patrick and Sam were outsiders in their own right too but had their own group of fellow outsiders. People who didn't care if their intelligence showed and knew their own mind in terms of music, films, books and of course a shared love of The Rocky Horror. To be honest they sound like a fun bunch and I loved each of them. The kind of group I would have loved to have been a part of myself.

The book was written and is set in the 90's. It's easy to tell with the obsession of the mixed tape. I went through that obsession too and have many memories of friends and I sharing mixed tapes (although our music taste was nowhere near as cool as these guys). I loved the soundtrack to this book and I don't mind admitting to looking some of them up. As well as the music there is a list of books that Charlie is given to read by his English teacher. Quite a few I have read and quite a few I haven't but I am thinking of picking up. Unlike The Silver Lining Playbook though there is no real spoilers here. So it doesn't matter if you haven't read the books mentioned.

As for Charlie's demons/ghosts I can't say that I was expecting them to turn out to be quite what they were. You already know that Charlie has a sad story in his past and you think you know what it is until you reach the end (or near the end). It gives that book that hint of sadness. Well more than a hint but not the crying your eyes out kind.

For a small YA book I got quite a lot out of it and I might have to go out and buy a copy for my own collection. It's a book that I would pass on to my kids when they are young teens (if I had any). The week I finished reading this I watched the film too and I was pleasantly surprised by it. It didn't deviate much at all from the books. The small changes I could live with. It's understandable that films based on books can't put everything in it but this one retained all the important scenes. It also had the songs I had hoped it would, mainly The Smiths which the book talks about regularly. I don't normally bother with soundtracks in films but I would have been annoyed had the film ignored it. Oh, and Charlies books were there too.

So if you haven't read the book or seen the film I recommend that you do.


  1. I enjoyed the film a lot more than the book, and I think it was mostly because it streamlined the story a little and I found book Charlie to actually seem younger than 15, more 12 or 13. But I guess when you get to the end you realise there's a reason he's stuck in early adolescence.

    Great review though, glad you liked it!

    1. Yeah, he did seem younger at times. I think that had something to do with his writing though. It came from his letters and there is a tendency for teens and children to sound younger than they are in their writing. That changes as they develop and I think his teacher mentioned this to him in he essay writing. Of course what happened to him early in life might have had a part to play in it too.

      Thank you.

  2. Loved this book. It was recommended to me and I devoured it. I read a review from someone who hated it because she felt that Charlie cried too much. In her review she actually said that no real 15 year old boy would ever cry let alone that often. I couldn't even respond to it because I was so stunned by her reasoning.

    I have not seen the movie because I was waiting to read a review from someone who had both read the book and seen the movie. So thank you! Now I will have to request a copy from my library.

    1. He did cry quite a lot but he had a lot to deal with in his young life. Things that he had surpressed so is it any wonder that he needed an emotional outlet. As to saying boys don't cry at 15 I have my doubts as to whether that's true. It's not seen as acceptable by their peers but that doesn't mean that they don't do it. Can understand why that comment astounded you.

      The film is good. I highly recommend it. The boy who plays Charlie got him down right. Of course there were small bits that were missed out but you can't have everything and it got all the important bits. It also managed to steer clear of a date and it could have been set in the 90's same as the book.

  3. Oh, I loved this when I first read it yonks ago (another one of the books the b-tch stole frome me) and I've been meaning to re-read it before I see the movie. And I may actually see the movie eventually (even though I usually don't like them).

    1. I wish I had read it as a teen. I think I would have loved it all the more then. Pfft, the ultimate crime, stealing a book from a bibliophile! There is a special place for people like them.

      I was surprised by liking the film. I don't usually after reading the book.

    2. I know, I keep telling myself to get over the loss of books, but every time I come across one I used to own I go back to that "dark place!"

      *thunder and lightning*

      And I agree to wishing I had read this as a teen - it would have meant so much more. I'm desperately trying to get my 16-yo niece to read all the books I wish I had read at that age, but she's not a reader. She's dyslexic, but I keep trying to push her. I did get her to read The Hunger Games trilogy - and now if she'd only trust that I'm not going to push any Russians on her, she'd gain so much from books like Perks... It's a lot better than that Holden Caulfield book - gah the title escapes me right now (and then I'll wake up in the middle of the night yelling it!)

    3. I would be the same. I am sure my ex has some of my books but for the life of me I can't think what they are. Which just irritates me even more. I did get some of his but they weren't that great. I have a feeling I got the short straw.

      Good luck in trying to get her to read it. When I tutored I had experience of encouraging stubborn kids to read. One boy it had to be gruesome before he would even consider a book.

      I'm lucky that my nieces are all readers. They are at that in between stage though where their reading is advanced enough but they are still quite young and not street wise enough to read some of my favourites. In a few years though they will be inundated with book gifts.

      Oh, the book you are thinkin of is Cather In The Rye. I hated that book. I read it maybe 10 years ago and have managed to erase most of the story from my memory other than the fact that Holden needs a time out (tame way of saying he needs a skelping). Plus wanting to toss the book across the room.