The wallflower is a European flower which blooms in early spring. It usually has a vibrant yellow appearance. However, Wallflower is also used to refer to a person who remains withdrawn from most social activities. On more occasions though such people who isolate themselves from others in various social gatherings are also the most vibrant ones at heart, experiencing a plethora of emotions. This is also probably why they initially face trouble in expressing themselves, as their expressions would be difficult to fathom, and as a result, they remain isolated. “Perks of Being a Wallflower” is about one such boy who struggles with life and keeps himself coiled up in his shell to avoid the real struggles of life. That is unless he meets his people, finds his place, and goes on to lead a more stable life. Chbosky keeps his readers bound with his neat writing style and an attractive plotline. This review contains honest feedback about what a reader should be expecting out of the pages of the novel.
Charlie’s high school life does not start on that much of a good note. He is dealing with the sudden loss of his best friend who committed suicide a few days before Charlie joining high school. Already an introvert, this abrupt absence of a close shoulder drives Charlie further inside his shell. His books and music become his only friends during this period. To avoid getting sucked up inside the void that his life had become Charlie maintains a bunch of letters, addressed to an arbitrary friend, where he talks about all that happens in his life and all that affects him. He has an ardent love for books and the English language, which brings him close to his English teacher in school. In Bill, he finds a mentor and a good friend.
Soon after, Charlie befriends Sam and Patrick. They go on to become two of the closest and best friends Charlie could have ever asked for. Patrick and Sam are stepbrother and sister. Their acquaintance shows Charlie how infinite we can be. Charlie enters a world of fun and life. He makes friends, commits mistakes, loses them, and gains them back.
During his high school years, Charlie grows as a person. He comes out of his shell (albeit in subtle manners), falls in love, enjoys high school, and learns that others have their fair share of troubles. Sam and Patrick both have their problems to deal with. Sam had always been a misfit. She teaches Charlie that we all have our insecurities and dilemmas, but we need to move past all that as else life would move past us. Patrick was involved romantically with a popular boy from their school. The boy was not ready to come out of the closet just then and wanted to keep their relationship a secret. Following a showdown in the canteen where the boy humiliates Patrick, Charlie stands up for Patrick, punching the boy in the face.
Sam and Patrick soon leave for college elsewhere and Charlie is left all alone again. This time though we get to know a dark secret in Charlie’s life. He was abused by his aunt. His aunt, turns out, was also sexually abused by a family friend. Her trauma remained undiagnosed, slowly turning her into an abuser as well. Charlie suffers a serious breakdown towards the end of the book, following which he is admitted into a hospital. The book closes with him starting life afresh.
The novel is a coming-of-age story of a boy named Charlie. As the story progresses, Charlie matures emotionally, physically, and sexually. By the end of the book, Charlie learns how to better handle life situations and tries not to become a wallflower again.
The boy suffers from PTSD. One particular incident of abuse from his childhood by his aunt haunted him into his teenage life. The sudden death of his best friend did not help either. However, as Charlie starts high school he befriends characters who have their own set of struggles. Charlie learns that even though there might be troubles, life would not wait for us. He learns to feel infinite, even if that feeling lasts for a moment.
Books and music play a very important role in the novel. Exchanging books are symbolic of exchanging stories. While exchanging stories, the characters in the book come to know about the various individual stories that the characters have experienced. It is a fine method of binding people together.
The style of the novel is smooth and easy flowing. Chbosky puts forth deep ideas in very simple words. The novel is full of philosophes that concern existentialism, individualism, and so on. Another brilliant aspect of Chbosky’s writing is how he knits the story together. As the reader follows the life of Charlie, there is no such place where the story is imposed upon the readers. Every incident is timed perfectly and presented to the reader in a very well-stitched pattern.
The language that the book uses also portrays the emotions of the characters the situations justly. Be it the feeling of being infinite in a moment, or being angry because your friend was humiliated, or being sad because you know you messed up – the language depicts all these emotions in proper lighting.
There is no one particular kind of reader that the book targets. If you like reading books then you are its target audience. The book is especially a good choice if you are a wallflower. It’s inspirational, motivational, and as you follow the life of Charlie through the pages, you grow as an individual as well. “Perks of Being a Wallflower” is definitely worth a place on your shelf.