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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Published in 1999, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is the story of Charlie, a high school freshman. Charlie is shy, unpopular and unknown. He is scared of high school and his best friend has just committed suicide. The book is written as a series of letters to an unknown person who Charlie randomly chose to write and it follows the entire year.

Over the course of the year, Charlie will have to deal with all of those things that every freshman goes through- school, finals, friendships, first loves, and family problems. Charlie befriends a couple of high school seniors and spends time being an observer, and occasional participant, to a world he shouldn't be in yet. He lets things happen to him and reacts to that, but over the course of the book slowly learns that while that makes everyone else happy it doesn't make him happy. This comes through in his relationships with most of the other characters- his sister, Patrick, Sam, Mary Elizabeth, even his relationship with his long dead Aunt Helen.

There are a few moments where I had to suspend my disbelief but over all, I loved the book. Unlike some reviewers, I liked the way Charlie wrote. I thought it was a good mix of "still a teenager" and "convinced he's a grownup." I liked the way his relationships evolved over time. It did seem that the author was trying awfully hard to hit all the hot topics- drugs? check! Pregnancy? check! Homosexuality? Check! Abuse? Rape? Depression? Check! but I can forgive him for it because I loved Charlie. (I did occasionally think that Charlie needed to butch up and stop crying, because the crying seemed to be contagious, but that flaw aside, I loved him.)

While this probably isn't going to be the best book I read all year, it'll probably be in the top ten. It's good and I'm glad I picked it up. A lot of reviews refer to it as a coming of age story. I tend to think this description is a bit overused (EVERY YA novel is NOT a coming of age story) but in this case I think it really fits.

If you read it, I'd love you read your review. Here's a few that I found with a quick search:

Things Mean a Lot (the review that finally pushed me to request the book)
Mari Reads (a new blogger to me)
books i done read
Bart's Bookshelf

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
MTV Books/Pocket Books
213 pages



  1. This sounds like a good one, Lisa. YA fiction is hit and miss with me, but I might have to give this one a try. Your review definitely makes it sound like a worthwhile read. Thanks for the great review.

  2. That sounds so good. It's good to read something like that every once in a while to remind us that being a kid isn't as easy as we remember.

  3. I agree with you about the coming-of-age description. But I also agree it applies in this case. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Lisa!

  4. I've been meaning to read this for about four years - maybe this will be the year.

  5. I read this book a few months ago, and like you, I was frustrated with Charlie at times, but overall I LOVED this book. But, I've never taken it to school and put it on my bookshelf. I teach 7th graders and I'm fairly liberal about what I put on my shelf for them to read, but this is one that I've never added. What do you think? Should I take it? Thanks so much for reviewing this one.

  6. I don't know about 7th grade. While I think most 7th graders are fully aware these days, I think some of it might be a bit much. It's not even the sexual situations, but rather the nonchalance about drugs that would bother me. There never was a time when the drug use and drinking was questioned, and for 7th grade I think not. For 9th grade, ok. I might take it and not put it on the shelf. Pretend you're Bill and give it to the super smart kids.

  7. When I think that my brother is in 7th grade, I think they are SO young still. But, I think that's me being naive to the things that actually go on. Anyway, I remember reading Nymeth's review of this one. It does sound really good--and what a lot of hot topics!!

  8. I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed this one as well. It is one of my favorites but I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I read it when I was a teenager and going through some of the same things. A great read!

  9. A wonderful book. I've read it multiple times, and it's one of my favorites. I've never met someone who doesn't like it. It has so many memorable quotes, and the author writes each character beautifully. I highly recommend it.

  10. This is one of my favorites. I think it was perfect timing in my life the first time I read it.


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