The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Perks of Being a Wallflower is the first book I’ve ever read that as soon as I finished I read again and here’s why:

Plot: High school student Charlie writes letters about his experiences at high school

I’m just going to say from the beginning that I think The Perks of Being a Wallflower is brilliant. The kind of young adult book that comes so rarely level of brilliant. The kind of brilliant that makes you keep thinking about what you’ve read weeks after you’ve read it. The kind of brilliant that makes you want to read the critical analysis online to see what you missed.

The first thing I love about it is the format. Chbosky writes the whole book in the form of letters to an unnamed character who Charlie has heard about through someone else. So what I like about this it feels like a smart way for the writer to be able to express exactly what the character is thinking without making the writing feel stretched or forced. You don’t need to write ‘Charlie thought this and this and this’ because every ounce of the writing is what Charlie thinks. The fact that everything is through his perspective gives you an empathy for him that would be hard for an author to create through any other method and because of this empathy when something good happens to him you smile and when he something bad happens to him you feel the hurt he feels and when he does a bad thing you feel really angered by him in the same way he feels angry at himself.

The other benefit of this format is it allows for the writing to be done in the style that Charlie would have. This seems like it could be a trick to allow poor writing but you never have that sense. Charlie writes in long sentences that trail and spiral and that feel exactly how he would speak. His thoughts as a character are complex and heartfelt and so when the writing feels like it’s spinning away or getting out of control it feels like that’s exactly what it should be doing. This really pushes you even further into Charlie’s mindset of a young guy who allows himself to get into situations that spiral away from him.

Allowing you to see how Charlie is thinking allows the reader an understanding of why the things that are important to Charlie are so important. This leads in to another reason I love this book so much and that is while other books undermine the issues young people have as ‘just a crush’ or ‘not important in the long term’ Chbosky champions these issues as meaningful and just as important as any issue an adult would have. The idea that everyone’s problems matter, no matter how big they seem in comparison to other people’s is one of the central things I took from the book as well as the idea that everyone is who they are because of their experiences but everyone going through the same experiences doesn’t have be the same way.

Continuing with this idea that everyone has a reason for who they are, one of the things I think is really excellent in the novel is the lack of meaningless characters. In practically every YA book about there seems to be about 10 characters that are just there if someone unimportant needs to do something bland for the plot (*cough* everyone besides Cedric Diggory in Hufflepuff *cough*) but this just isn’t the case with POBAW (as no one is calling it). Every character has some description to them, everyone is someone even if the narrator barely knows them. To trample on a John Green quote, everyone has multitudes. Whether it’s Alice or Michael’s friends or Charlie’s aunt, everyone is someone.

Favourite Line: “I wasn’t raised very religiously because my parents went to Catholic school”

Rating: 10/10

 

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