Book Review – The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

This is the first review I’ve written about a reread! I might do some more of these, if I happen to do more rereads this year. The Perks of Being a Wallflower helped shape the very turbulent year that I met my husband, and it influenced Something Beautiful a great deal, so I wanted to reread it. I have to say that a lot of it held up, but not everything. I’ll discuss, don’t worry.

In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Charlie has lost his best friend to suicide, so he has decided to write letters to him in a journal to track his freshman year of high school. He experiences highs and lows, new friends and first dates. He’s observant and quiet and has always felt like he’s not quite right. But that’s all part of the high school adventure, isn’t it? Together with Sam and Patrick, he navigates one of the most difficult years of his life and comes out on the other side.

perks


3 Things I Loved

  1. Sam. My favorite character is always Sam, for so many reasons. She’s complicated, and she’s a high school girl, but she’s more. She (along with Patrick) bring Charlie out of his shell and they make him feel wanted and loved and she encourages him to the very end. She’s a gem of a character, both in spite of and because of her flaws.
  2. Patrick. Patrick is the spirit of this book and of Charlie. He probably does even more than Sam in making Charlie feel like he belongs, but he also uses Charlie at some points in the book, and I didn’t like reading that, especially a second time. But he still is good for Charlie, and I love that about him.
  3. Charlie. Oh Charlie. He’s such an unreliable narrator in that way that makes him believable. His letters to his unnamed friend are heartbreakingly honest and pure and I want to hug him so many times in the book. And that ending. Oh, it guts me every time.

Dislikes/Problematic Content

The thing about this book is that it is a product of its time.

When I read it for the first time, in 2012, I didn’t see the things I do now. There is a lot of ableist language, a lot of homophobic language, and the discussion of the AIDS “epidemic” and protection is fascinating to read now. These aren’t necessarily problems, but I think it’s important for new young readers to be aware of what kind of language they might be encountering in this book. It could be hurtful, or even triggering. Warnings specifically for sexual assault, abuse, suicide, mental illness, and homophobia.

As for dislikes… aside from the language that felt super squicky to me the second time I read the book, the only other thing that comes to mind is the stilted writing. This story is told in a series of letters to an unnamed friend, and there is very little emotion in any of them. It’s a quick read, but an unaffected one. The style probably isn’t for everyone.

Also, it’s super white.


Rating

A reminder of the rating scale:

  • Red = DNF, I hated everything
  • Orange = Ugh, no thank you
  • Yellow = I mean, I’ve read worse, but there were problems
  • Green = This was good! 
  • Blue = Oh my gosh, I loved this book!
  • Purple = This is the unicorn of books and I will be rereading it until the binding falls apart and EVERYONE should be reading it!

I had a hard time rating this reread. I gave it four stars on Goodreads, but that doesn’t seem right for how it fits into my rating scale. So after a lot of thought, I’m giving The Perks of Being a Wallflower a YELLOW rating. NOT BECAUSE I DON’T LIKE IT. I just want it out there that there are issues with how this book will be received by new readers, and I don’t want those issues swept under the rug. Those views are valid, and they need to be discussed!

Also, I love this movie a whole lot, but it has many of the same issues. Ezra Miller and Emma Watson make up for some of those issues, but not all of them, unfortunately.


Has anyone read this one lately? What did you think of how it held up?

Happy reading!

-A.

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