Book review: The perks of being a wallflower

The perks of being a wallflowerI first got to know about “The Perks of Being A Wallflower” because of the film adaptation starring the amazing Emma Watson. By the time I got to the book, it felt like another regular coming-of-age book offering everything expected from a young adult fiction…and nothing more.

Written by Stephen Chbosky, the story features main protagonist Charlie, an awkward teenager suffering from schizophrenia and his freshman year in high school. The plot was strewn together through a series of letters Charlie penned for an anonymous friend, where he revealed his struggles and emotions as he embarked on new friendships, particularly with best friends Sam and Patrick, and his initiations into youth and adulthood, dabbling with love, sex and drugs.

The feeling I had happened when Sam told Patrick to find a station on the radio. And he kept getting commercials. And commercials. And a really bad song about love that had the word “baby” in it. And then more commercials. And finally he found this really amazing song about this boy, and we all got quiet.

Sam tapped her hand on the steering wheel. Patrick held his hand outside the car and made air waves. And I just sat between them. After the song finished, I said something.

“I feel infinite.”

And Sam and Patrick looked at me like I said the greatest thing they ever heard. Because the song was that great and because we all really paid attention to it. Five minutes of a lifetime were truly spent, and we felt young in a good way.

This book is no doubt a breeze to get through with its simple, straightforward narrative. Yet what really bugged me throughout was the style of the language used to write the story – short, fragmented sentences that are at times repetitive, such as the example below:

And we were talking about things that seemed important at the time. And we were looking up that hill. And then Patrick started running after the sunset. And Sam immediately followed him. And I saw them in silhouette. Running after the sun. Then, I started running. And everything was as good as it could be.

As much as Charlie had mental problems, he was no poor student. In fact, he was described to be a straight As student topping his high school literature class but ironically was unable to write proper sentences in his letters. The childlike writings, I felt, did the book disservice by making it an impediment to smooth reading.

Amidst its shortcomings, there were times the book conjured up images so beautiful it reminded me of the best memories of my bittersweet growing-up years.

Did you enjoy reading “The Perks of Being A Wallflower?” Share your comments below!

42 thoughts on “Book review: The perks of being a wallflower

  1. What a great review 🙂
    I read the book in one day and just had to watch the movie afterwards.
    And I in my opinion both are absolutely fantastic.
    It is such an emotional and touching book, I fell in love with it after the first letter.
    Reading it was really a great experience. Watching the movie as well. They changed a few things and left some out, but it is just right.
    Charlie is an absolutely amazing and unique charakter – and I was so shocked when they revealed the truth. I just couldn’t believe it. Could you?

    What did you like more?
    The book or the movie? 🙂

    1. The book and the movie never felt the same for me since the book focuses a lot on Charlie’s internal thoughts and conflicting emotions that are often expressed quite differently when you watch them in movies. Between books and movies, I am always a little biased towards the former because I love that words give me so much room to imagine about the scenes and the characters. Movies on the other hand are the visual interpretations that the director/screenwriter has of the text.

  2. The book does tend to be clunky at certain times, and though that diminished my enjoyment down a few notches, I finished the book wanting to read it again, which is a criterion of mine that I truly liked the book.

  3. I had a similar reaction to this book. It was easy to get through and poignant in my ways, but I couldn’t always understand Charlie’s childlike interaction with the world. I felt like this didn’t come across as strongly in the film, which is interesting because I believe Chbosky wrote the screenplay as well.

  4. I fell in love with the movie the moment I saw it! It was just amazing and the music was great and the characters the actors,the directing the plot, just everything felt amazing to me! By the time I’d watched it for the 3rd time I had already bought the book and now I’ve finished it.

    I could seriously keep talking about it all day, I simply loved it. Very well done characters,back-stories and just everything is amazing. The book is more “sobbingly” sentimental than the movie(if you can believe that’s possible) and having watched the movie it was easier to enjoy, because you already had a voice to give to Charlie and Sam was Emma and Patrick was Ezra and the RHPS scene was hilarious…and and and and…

    As you can understand I recommend watching the movie before reading the book,it’s more enjoyable this way 😉

  5. I read this book about 10 years ago, when I was in high school. It definitely was easy to relate to when I was that age. I had a good friend who carried a copy of with her everyone, highlighted and dog-eared as if it were her personal Bible. I just have to wonder why it took so long to make a film adaptation of it…

    1. I find it adorable that your friend’s so in love with the book, especially in our disposable society. It must be a very well-loved copy

  6. Regarding Charlie’s writing style, he is certainly a good student and probably a good writer, but he might write a paper or essay differently than a stream of conscious letter or journal entry, which is what these letters really were. He isn’t concerned with writing great sentences, his goal is to get his thoughts down as he thinks them. And as a shizophrenic who is figuring things out piece by piece it makes sense that his writing be simplistic and fragmented.

    1. Hmmm… yeah, that could be a possible interpretation but I find that his stream of conscious is of a vastly different level as compared to the level of literary materials he was reading in school. I felt it was distracting and unnecessary to be repeating certain words such as “And then” again and again, and also to use short sentences or phrases rather than sentence connectors to link certain ideas together. Just my two pennies worth 😀

      1. The whole point of stream of consciousness is that you aren’t trying hard. It is informal. When you think thoughts are they as eloquent as when you sit down and write a paper or read literature? When I talk to friends I say ‘like’ all the time. It makes me sound dumb, even though I am way smarter than that. It is just a bad habit. When I am at work or writing something formal, I edit out all the ‘like’s.

      2. You do make a valid point. I have to omit some words, particularly ‘really,’ ‘like’ and ‘already,’ which I would unconsciously include in a lot of my conversations when I’m writing. Perhaps as you say the author is trying to make his writing more authentic. (:

  7. I’m glad you were honest with your review. I saw this book in the store the other day and considered buying it. But, then I realized I was just tempted to because of the hype surrounding the movie, and that was not a good enough reason. I think coming-of-age novels are tricky to execute. The writer has to have a good plot and good writing. I’m not much of a fan of the genre but I did love Catcher in the Rye! Maybe because I related so much to Holden’s angst during my teen years 😛

    1. Yeah I certainly do think that coming-of-age novels are hard to execute simply because there are too many of them, fiction and non-fiction, available in the market with very similar themes. Nonetheless, our teenage/young adult years still remain as a fascinating period to write since all of us are molded differently in terms of our background, environment and a whole list of other variables. Though I am not a big fan of this genre, but a well-executed piece is always such a heart warmer. One of the most memorable coming-of-age novels would so far be A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. A very heartfelt piece regardless it being fictional or a proper memoir per se.

  8. I think coming-of-age novels are hard to execute and to capture readers, the author must be very successful with his/her writing style and plot. I’ve read a couple and none really spoke to me other than Catcher in the Rye. I saw this in the bookstore and was wondering whether I should buy it, but then I realized that I was just being drawn only because of the hype, and that’s not a good enough reason. Love your review and happy you were honest about your thoughts!

  9. I’m sorry, but I just can’t agree with your opinion on the book. This is an absolutely brilliant book, and it was written by a brilliant and highly-talented writer. His ideas were amazing. I also have to point out that Charlie’s writing style, by the end of the book, had improved drastically from the beginning. It was Chbosky’s aim to show that by writing these letters and through the help given by Bill, his teacher for Literature, and his various books, Charlie improved not only in personality (by increasing his depth and learning to understand himself), but also in writing skills. It was a complete success.

    For me, the book was a joy to read from finish to start. What a sweet-minded, gentle, understanding character Charlie is. Also, he faces many of the problems that other youths his own age in USA have to face.

    I’ve written a review on this book too. You can check it out here, if you want:

    Keep writing!

    1. Now that you’ve mentioned, I do concur that Charlie’s writing style did improve towards the end. But even then, his writings I felt still did not match up with his linguistic abilities that seem to be better than most of his peers. Nonetheless, thank you for your ideas and opinions! Will certainly drop by your blog!

  10. I thought about buying it at the used bookstore last week. I scanned a few pages and just couldn’t handle the writing style. I guess it’s intended to further develop Charlie to the reader, but honestly I just could not handle that. The example you show is exactly what I’m referring to. I think that would keep me from feeling the world and just annoy me.

  11. This was one of my absolute favorite books in high school, but I haven’t read it since. I’m afraid that I might find it simplistic, like you did, or that I won’t love it as much as I did when I was 15 and awkward and just wanting to feel infinite.

    1. I share the same sentiments for books that I used to adore until when I re-read it again, it felt lackluster. One of the authors I admit to falling out of love with would be Nicholas Spark. It’s embarrassing for me to recall his cheesy romantic stories

  12. This is EXACTLY the reaction I had when I read the book a few years ago. I kept thinking–this kid is supposed to be an English whiz, why is he writing like an elementary schooler? But I did adore the plot and the characters and the writing didn’t turn me off enough to put the book down. It’s one of my favorites and I think the movie was done well.

    1. Yeah, the plot is pretty much the young adult, coming-of-age fiction it promises but I have to say its best and most memorable scene definitely had to be the “We were infinite” tunnel crossing moment. It encompassed what I felt about my teenage years (:

  13. I loved the movie but when I read passages of the novel, the prose put me off. I love short, succinct sentences in Hemingway’s style, but this was fragment after fragment, as if written in an alternate dimension where Strunk and White never existed.

    Great review – I echo your sentiments.

  14. I love this book. Others say that they got bored while reading this, but I don’t. In here, I’ve learned that just because someone never says anything about something doesn’t mean they didn’t notice. And most of the time, the wallflowers notice more than the social butterflies.

    1. That is true that wallflowers are so barely noticeable that they hear and see everything around them, like how Charlie was always observing at parties and events. Thanks for dropping by the site!

  15. I’ve loved this book for years. I really didn’t get on with the adaptation, it just didn’t evoke any kind of emotion in me and I didn’t think they portrayed Charlie very well.

    1. I find the character of Charlie to be rather difficult to portray on the silver screen because he is a wallflower who spent more time listening and blending into the background than conversing. He is such a highly passive role who had more mental conversations with himself in the book rather than with the outside world, which makes it difficult for the actor to articulate to cinema audiences effectively.

  16. What a Coincidence!! I am halfway through the book right now. Actually, it’s taking too long for me to complete as i am finding it utterly boring.
    I picked up the book as I wanted to read before I watch the movie. I guess I won’t be watching the movie after reading this one!

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