The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky was an insightful and impactful book, but I cannot say I enjoyed reading it. The story is told all in letters that Charlie, the protagonist, writes to an anonymous friend. The letters are more like journal entries for Charlie and have a therapeutic effect. He starts out freshman year with no friends after the suicide of his one middle school friend. Charlie befriends his English teacher, Bill, who gives him classic literature throughout the year to read and write essays about. Bill also encourages him to “participate” more in life, going against Charlie’s nature of being a wallflower. Shortly thereafter, he is taken under the wing of two artsy high school seniors and step cousins, Sam and Patrick. Charlie immediately has a crush on Sam, which leads to complications further in the novel. However, even though Sam and Patrick’s friendship is good for Charlie’s well being, he is pushed to try smoking and drugs. Charlie also navigates his relationships with his family, including his racist grandfather and his sister, who struggles with an abusive boyfriend. The Perks of Being a Wallflower realistically portrays Charlie and his struggles as a teenager with depression, growing up, speaking up, and finding where he belongs.
Chobsky has a distinctive style, and the writing matures and improves throughout the book, though the entire book is written in a stream of conscious fashion. The best parts of the book are Charlie’s long monologues when he reveals all of his emotions. Chobsy’s writing was able to fully portray what Charlie thought in his bedroom, late at night, and all alone with his thoughts for company. It is really powerful because before this book I have never read anything that showed the musings of a character when they are being their truest self when they can think freely in the safety of their own rooms and observe the beautiful and ugly goings-on about them. However, I still did not enjoy the book, because it is not a book that was meant to be enjoyed, in the way that you enjoy Harry Potter or Percy Jackson, or fluffy romance novels. The purpose of reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower is to think, and I certainly did.