BOOK REVIEW: "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky

Title: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Author: Chbosky, Stephen
Published: August 14, 2012 by MTV Books
ISBN: 1451696191
Edition Language: English
Source:  Borrowed from MHS Library

from Goodreads:
standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective…but there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor. since its publication, stephen chbosky’s haunting debut novel has received critical acclaim, provoked discussion and debate, grown into a cult phenomenon with over a million copies in print, and inspired a major motion picture.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a story about what it’s like to travel that strange course through the uncharted territory of high school. the world of first dates, family dramas, and new friends. of sex, drugs, and the rocky horror picture show. of those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

Mrs. Beamer's Review:
I should preface this review by reminding readers of my quirk…I never read dust-jackets, back-of-book summaries, reviews, etc. prior to reading a book.  One of the joys of reading, for me, is discovering the story on my own terms.  That being said, it is virtually impossible to be surrounded by YA fiction and not hear snippets of comment on this book.  I expected this book to be good.

Chbosky tells the story of Charlie, a high school freshman, through a series of letters Charlie pens to a “friend”.  While I enjoyed this format of storytelling, I found myself constantly wondering who the “friend” was and if the identity of the “friend” would be revealed…and if this “friend” had any significance to the storyline.  Consequently, I was distracted while reading this book. 

Charlie starts his freshman year basically friend-less.  Early in the story, he meets Patrick.  Charlie writes, “Now, normally I am very shy, but (Patrick) seemed like the kind of guy you could just walk up to at a football game even though you were three years younger and not popular.”  I couldn’t wrap my brain around this sentence, and therefore found a major premise of the book (the friendship between Charlie and Patrick) unrealistic.  So, while I can appreciate the author wanting to explore the “shy freshman coming of age” story from a different approach…I didn’t get this one.  Given the success of this novel, I am guessing my opinion of the Charlie/Patrick connection is in the minority.

Despite my annoyance at not knowing who the “friend” was and my non-belief in the likelihood of a friendship between Charlie and Patrick, I was engaged in the book.  Charlie’s dialect was real and his insights much what I would imagine a shy freshman to have.  The characters were well developed and believable.  The plethora of issues touched on in the book were age-appropriate for the mature high schooler. 

I would recommend this book to reluctant readers, whom I find are drawn to unique methods of storytelling.  The book touches on many teen-related issues without offering opinion or judgment.  For this reason, I would caution conservative parents and encourage them to read the book along with their child. 

Mrs. Beamer’s Wrap-Up Rating: 0-5 (0=none, 5=lots) click here for more info
Language: 1
Violence: 0
Sexual Content: 3.5
Drugs/Alcohol: 3.5
Recommend for High School Libraries: YES
Comfortable With My Child Reading: in college
Controversial Topics: abortion, homosexuality, child abuse, suicide

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