Stephen Chobosky’s fearless dive into the teenage years

by Sadie S. Burdett

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky follows the story of Charlie throughout his first year of high school during the early 1990s. 

While very shy, Charlie cares deeply about his friends. He watches others from the sidelines until he meets Sam and her stepbrother Patrick, who are both in their senior year.  

Sam and Patrick, along with their friends, become Charlie’s first glimpse of friendship in high school. 

While primarily focused on Charlie, the book also shines a light on Sam and Patrick’s struggles throughout high school. Stressors of the college search, homophobia, and navigating relationships are some of the ones the elder students deal with. 

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is written from a series of letters he sends to an anonymous friend, but it reads more like a diary. 

Charlie’s letters to the anonymous person provide Charlie an outlet to talk about his family grief, his guilt about his aunt, and his complicated friendships. The letters discuss the topics of first loves, domestic and sexual abuse, and even suicide. I would keep these topics in mind if you decide to read it. 

While having more serious topics, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” also shows how Charlie learns to have fun with other people around him. 

Throughout the book, Charlie and his friends perform a rendition of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” go to parties, and even drive through a tunnel while blasting music. Charlie learns to be a teenager, living through both the good and bad parts. 

This book is very relatable in many different ways because of the number of different topics it covers. It portrays teenage life almost perfectly, even though the book itself is 24-years-old. 

The timelessness of this book shows how great of an author Chbosky is. He writes so eloquently that you can truly feel how the characters are feeling. Even though it is written more for teenagers, Chbosky was fearless in discussing the more serious topics while not adding a positive connotation to those topics. 

While some teenagers will never encounter some of the themes in this story, it does a respectable job of raising awareness. 

I recommend reading this fantastic book; if you choose not to, I recommend watching the movie. It is very similar to the book and is always a good watch and easy to follow even if you have never read it.

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