The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is a hotly debated title. If you scroll through reviews on Goodreads, you will find that it is one of those books that people either adore or cannot stand. I have seen everything from five star, long explanations on why it is the best book ever written to one star rants on why it is the worst book ever. I am settled somewhere comfortable in the middle, leaning towards the good.
The Perks of a Being a Wallflower is about Charlie, a freshman in high school, in the form of letters Charlie writes to an unnamed stranger. It’s almost like a diary, since there are no replies from the stranger (Charlie did not put a return address on the envelopes). Interestingly enough, Charlie is not even the main character’s real name. He says in his first letter than he is changing all the names so that this stranger who listens will not even know who he really is. Essentially, he just knows that this person is a good listener (someone told him so) and he just needs to know that someone, somewhere is listening.
The letters tell of Charlie’s struggles in a new school, his attempts to make friends, and his adventures with the friends that he makes. Through the letters, you watch Charlie go from someone who is passive, not confident, and just lets things happen to someone who is still shy, but stronger, more confident, and stands up for what is right. His character development is incredible. Charlie becomes the confidant, secret-keeper, listening ear, and so much more to his friends. He is a wallflower, and he comes to learn that being a wallflower is okay – it is good. It’s okay to be different. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a classic and sobering coming-of-age tale. I have an odd love and appreciation for this story in many ways. It speaks to my introverted soul and relates well to anyone who has ever felt awkward or out of place (that would be me).
The Perks of Being a Wallflower also deals with a lot of difficult issues: drugs, alcohol, homosexuality, sexuality in general, sexual abuse, abortion, and more. As a Christian, I did not agree with many of the ways this book dealt with these issues. Many were seen as positive or a normal/necessary part of life. The issue I do applaud Chbosky for his handling of is sexual abuse. It is a serious issue that is not often discussed in bigger circles. Chbosky makes a big push in his book for getting help or being there for those who have endured abuse of any kind, but especially sexual abuse. I would encourage parents with teens interested in reading this book to read it along with their teens, discussing things along the way. It’s very important that Christians read this with a biblical worldview in mind, understanding that The Perks of Being a Wallflower is written from an almost nihilistic worldview.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky gets 4/5 stars.