Stephen Chbosky’s ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ Review

‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ has been sat on my book shelf since way before the film came out in 2012. But thanks to a hectic few years of A levels and a degree that insist I read several books a week I’ve had very little time for reading what I’ve wanted. So thankfully, now that my studies are drawing to a close and I’m up to date with my reading list, I’m back to reading what I want: starting with Stephen Chbosky’s novel.

I often worry that years of studying literature would have made it impossible for me to enjoy reading a novel without tearing it to pieces and that ‘d be unable to enjoy anything designed for the younger reader, (a worry that was almost confirmed by my read of If I Stay). Thankfully this wasn’t the case.

The novel is written through a series of letters and at times I can see why the voice of Charlie might be difficult for some readers to follow. He does have a tendency to rattle off on various subjects and I think many readers might find that distracting or perhaps feel that t takes away from the narrative. But in my opinion, it works.

Charlie is young, just starting high school, he’s confused, he’s alone and he struggles with mental illness and is grieving not only his best friend, but also his aunt. Of course, a narrative that s told from his point of view isn’t going to be 100% coherent. I know if I’d written a diary or letters trying to lay down my thoughts at that time in my own life it would be far from coherent, and I think in many ways that’s the highlight of the novel.

Charlie is by far and large, the most realistic representation of a teenager who has been through far more than any teenager should have. Having lost my own father as a result of suicide when was sixteen and having suffered from anxiety for most of my life I saw a lot of myself in Charlie. He is real, honest and manages to express the confusing, embarrassing and exciting process of going through adolescence better than I think I’ve ever heard.

Chbosky’s portrayal of many sensitive issues was incredibly refreshing. Having experienced first-hand, many of the issues tackled in this book there were times where I expected to find the novel hard to read. But what I actually found was that the book was comforting. It was like talking to people who had been through the same things and understood.

That’s true, not only of Charlie, but of all the characters in the book. Each of them come to feel, over the course of the book, like friends. For this reason, I think that anyone who has ever felt alone, or confused or completely messed up, would not fail to fall in love with this book.

I saw the film when it came out, one of the only times I’ve ever seen the film adaptation of a book before reading the book itself. Though, unlike many, I didn’t mind the film, I do feel that it is not a patch on the book. The book tackles so many issues, so many emotions and gets them all pretty spot on, if not extremely close.

Some books make a real impact on you, they stay with you for years and years and I have a feeling that The Perks of Being A Wallflower is one of those books.


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