Review: The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

perksThis review is spoiler-free!

Charlie is a freshman.

And while he’s not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.

Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can’t stay on the sideline forever. 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.

I finally read it!

The Perks of Being a Wallflower seems to be one of the YA books to read, with a huge following similar to what The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Twilight, and John Green’s books enjoy.

It’s also contemporary fiction, hence why I was originally uninterested in it – I prefer fantasy or science fiction or humor.

But I did end up enjoying the book – not adoring, just enjoying – so here are my thoughts on The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Note: Sorry for having so many book reviews at once! I’ll try harder to spread them out over time.

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The writing style is super-simplistic.

And yet, I didn’t mind this. Chbosky pulls this off because the book is told in first-person, narrated by Charlie. The author couldn’t use this style otherwise because it is a bit immature – which works for the character, but would reflect badly on the author if used for third-person.

I don’t understand the book’s cover.

I mean, green is a pretty color, but… what’s up with the design? The title is too small and not placed where it will be easy to see. There’s a lot of negative space, and I have no idea what the leg picture is supposed to represent.

Actually, it looks remarkably like something my brother and I might design, if we had to work together. My brother isn’t artistic (so he wouldn’t care about its aesthetic appeal) and I have the technological skills of a flea (so I’d have trouble fiddling around with the font and leg picture to make them the size I wanted).

There’s a reason I write rather than illustrate.

The story felt so real.

Early on, Charlie writes, “It’s strange because sometimes, I read a book, and I think I am the people in the book.” That is essentially how I felt while reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I didn’t love it so much that I just had to keep reading because I was desperate to learn what happened next. But when I did pick it up, the world just kind of dissolved around me and I felt like Charlie, Patrick, Sam, and all the others were friends I’d known forever.

That is one of the positive aspects of reading contemporary fiction, I guess. The stories are more realistic. While I may love hobbits and dragons and all that, it’s not as easy to pretend that their world is my own.

The book covers a lot of “issues” and sometimes they overwhelmed the rest of the story.

For example, it discusses drinking, drugs, LGBTQ+, teen pregnancy, molestation, and suicide. Yeah. That’s a lot. And this book isn’t very long, so sometimes it felt like the story bounced around from issue to issue without spending enough time on each.

For the record, I can think of two books that deal with a similar amount of “issues,” but do so in more depth. The first is Linda Newbery’s Sisterland which deals with, among other things, drinking, LGBTQ+ and teen pregnancy. (Plus racism and religion and the Holocaust. But this book is at least twice as long as The Perks of Being a Wallflower.) The other “issue” book is The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth. Yes, I talk about this one a lot. No, I will never stop recommending it because it’s just that good. It deals with drinking, drugs, LGBTQ+, et cetera.

Epistolary novels are awesome!

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one such novel, as you probably already figured out. I love books told through documents (usually letters) – I wouldn’t want to read them all the time, but they’re a nice change from other formats. I loved not being told who Charlie is writing to. I loved guessing who it might be.

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So there you have it. Some part of the book needed improvement but nothing was just plain awful, and overall I liked it. It made me think and laugh and almost cry.

What is your opinion of The Perks of Being a Wallflower?

Rating: 3/5

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About nevillegirl

Elizabeth. University of Iowa class of 2019. Triple majoring in English & Creative Writing, Journalism, and Gender, Women's, & Sexuality Studies. Twenty-one-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, aspiring writer, and lesbian. Passionate about feminism, mental health, comic books, and cats.
This entry was posted in Books and Reading!, Nevillegirl's Adventures!, Non-Neville Posts, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Review: The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

  1. Clarice says:

    Hm. Well, it was one of those books which I thought, ‘I’m glad I read it, but I will never do so again.’

    I agree with you about it bouncing around issues. It’s good that somebody covers them, but the author seems to have stuffed them all in one book, like he was thinking: Oh, what didn’t I add in here? Oh, yes, /that/ topic! And I can’t say he did it in a particularly subtle way.

    Another thing is that I didn’t understand the protagonist, and the simplistic way of writing. He sounded like a six-year-old. (Not in a bad sense…it’s just that seems to be what the author is aiming for. Someone totally naïve and inexperienced.) The thing is, I don’t know why. His sister wasn’t like that. Did the boy have a mental disorder? Was he really that sheltered? (I think not, from the way his dad was happy to talk to him about sex.) I think someone told me once that this was supposed to be ‘how introverts think’, and I was annoyed.

    There were other times when I wanted to shake Charlie. It’s been a while, but if I recall correctly there was a scene in which a girl was being molested in front of him, and he didn’t do anything about it. 😛

    But, I’m glad I read it. It introduced good topics that most people should probably talk about, and there were a lot of times when I related with Charlie (especially when he talked about books). It was just some parts made me feel completely alienated from him. The book made me think, but it also gave me a headache. That kid had /problems/.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Agreed.

      I was looking at reviews on Goodreads and noticed a lot of them wondered whether Charlie is supposed to be autistic… because you’re right, there’s something more going on than just introversion.

  2. Boquinha says:

    I loved this book. And what timing! The Magic Violinist just read it and we both watched the movie together afterward (so weird to see Emma Watson speak with an American accent). Anyway! I spent the entire book wondering what was up with Charlie – as mentioned, he seemed young, innocent . . . I, too, wondered if he was autistic (it read a lot like “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime” – have you read that one? Great book.).

    Without totally spoiling the book for those who haven’t read it yet (though I’m about to hint strongly, so stop reading if you don’t want any hints or potential spoilers), I think learning more about Charlie and his life/past explains A LOT. He was affected deeply, seriously, and (and I speak from experience as a counselor) that can absolutely affect the way someone perceives the world around them. I *loved* the letter writing format and have a pretty strong opinion on who it is I think he’s addressing. And that just makes me love the book more.

    I read your post and said to Kate, “Wow, she’s a pretty tough critic. She said she liked it and she gave it a three!” Kate responds, “That’s a really good rating for her!” I must say, you back up your ratings with specifics and that’s so important. You pointed out stuff I hadn’t considered – you’re right; some of the issues overwhelmed others. Really good review!

    • nevillegirl says:

      (Whoops, I meant to respond to this a few days ago!)

      Ahaha, I bet that was weird. Was the movie any good?

      Yes, I have read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. I liked it, although I don’t remember much of it now because I read it three or four years ago. 😦

      Hmmm yes, that might explain Charlie’s extreme introversion.
      (Who do you think he’s addressing?)

      Ha! You have actually inspired me to write a whole post (it’ll be out pretty soon) with that comment. Because I /am/ a tough critic compared to some people, I think. I give most of the books I read three stars, but I don’t think that’s bad. I consider 3/5 a perfectly decent book and anything above that is pretty special.

      Thank you!

      • Boquinha says:

        I like the movie. Very pleased with the adaptation. The author wrote the screenplay and directed it, so I think that has something to do with not being disappointed by the adaptation. I read the book a couple of years ago and watched the movie then. And I watched it again a couple of weeks ago with Kate when she finished the book. We both like both.

        So, my theory is that he’s addressing the reader. It makes sense to me; and for me, it makes the book and relationship even more special. He is looking for someone to trust and talk to, and I think that person is whoever is reading the book.

        Excited to see your post!

    • nevillegirl says:

      Yay! That’s usually a good sign. J.K. Rowling helped with the last two HP movies, I believe, and they were much better than the rest. And even though I didn’t like TFiOS, it’s good that John Green is helping with that as well.

      Hmmm…

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