Charlie is used to being on the periphery of the social lives of his cohort, observing, without fully engaging, all of the drama, parties and relationships that come with the teenage experience. The move from Middle School to High School offers an opportunity for change for Charlie, making friends with some older students who show him what it is like to “participate” – going to parties, meeting new people, and living life to the full. It’s not plain sailing though – hidden to the outside world, Charlie struggles with family relationships, and the all-encompassing guilt he feels over the death of a close relative. Conscious to shake off his wallflower moniker, Charlie tries to live in the moment and change his perspective on life.
The entirety of this novel is told as letters; at the outset, it appears that we’re privy to messages intended for a character in the novel. These are all from our protagonist, Charlie, with no correspondence from the recipient – this means that the book is a relative easy and accessible read, perfect if you are in a “reading slump”, like I was before starting this book. It also allows us to see Charlie’s perspective on life; this is important to try to understand some of the mental health struggles that he experiences throughout the book, as well as helping us to back him as the novel progresses.
However, it’s important to mention that there are some difficult topics in this book – mentions of sexual assault, drug use and abuse feature, so bear this in mind when choosing whether or not this one is for you.
“And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
This book fits well into the “coming-of-age” category, and there is a good deal of character development and growth throughout the novel, and the letter-format really highlights the different moods and changes in outlook that Charlie experiences.
This book, as previously mentioned, deals with many of the themes typically dealt with by a “coming-of-age” novel, and this is both a positive and a negative. On the one hand, it captures the teenage experiences of many and gives a well rounded view of the struggles felt by a lot of people in a very short space of time (240 pages). On the other hand, some of the themes that are explored felt underdeveloped and as if they needed a little elaboration in some areas. Nevertheless, these are not topics to be shied away from, and in many places in the book, they are dealt with well.
Overall, this is an easy read that slots perfectly into the category of coming-of-age novels, dealing effectively with pertinent concepts without becoming a hash of some of the clichéd tropes of the Young Adult genre.