Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #69: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #69: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen ChboskyThe Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Narrator: Noah Galvin
Length: 6 hrs, 23 mins
Published by Recorded Books on August 28, 2012
Genres: Contemporary
Source: Purchased
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four-half-stars

Most people think 15-year-old Charlie is a freak. But then seniors Patrick and his beautiful stepsister Sam take Charlie under their wings and introduce him to their eclectic, open-minded, hard-partying friends. It is from these older kids that Charlie learns to live and love.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives or to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and music—when all one requires to feel infinite is that perfect song on that perfect drive.

Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up.

Today, friends, I must start with a confession: I tried to read The Perks of Being a Wallflower during high school and immediately loathed and DNFed it. As such, I’ve not tried again until 2014, at least ten years after my first attempt. I also went for a format change, because I had a vague memory of the writing being a problem, and switching formats can help with that. It’s funny, because I completely understand why my teen self loathed this book, but I can also appreciate it now and admire what it’s doing on top of enjoying the story.

The writing in The Perks of Being a Wallflower probably would have been a struggle for me still, at least at the beginning. There’s a sort of Catcher in the Rye-ness to the book, but, unlike Catcher, there’s personal growth throughout the book. Perks is a full year in Charlie’s life, his freshman year of high school, and he learns a lot during that year. He grows emotionally and intellectually. For this reason, I’d say you should push through, even if you don’t like Charlie or his narration at the outset.

In case you do struggle, I highly recommend this audio version narrated by Noah Galvin. Perks is one of those books written in the way that someone talks, and so it lends itself really well to the audio format. Plus, Galvin sounds like he could be 15, which is actually a really difficult thing to find in YA audiobooks. He reads with great emotion too. This was really a perfect book for the audio format.

Charlie’s a really great and unique character, something which I couldn’t appreciate back when I tried to read it as a teen. At the time, I read a lot of romance, classics, and various adult fiction. YA wasn’t my thing, and I wasn’t used to reading about teen characters. Plus, Charlie’s a very unusual boy. He’s highly emotional and cries a lot, something I’ve never really done. I didn’t get him back then. Now, though, I’m so glad to see a book about a boy who cries, because our culture teaches guys to repress their feelings, and repression is not healthy. The novel’s all about learning to accept and understand yourself.

There were two things I didn’t like about Perks. The first is all the drug use and smoking. Realistic, sure, but also it made me uncomfortable that smoking wasn’t shown in an unflattering light. This is one of the things that I just cannot abide personally. Then there’s Sam. She’s a full-blown Manic Pixie Dream Girl, which is a term I really don’t use often. She’s got very little personality, aside from being fascinating, gorgeous, mysterious, and sexy. I’m pretty positive John Green read this book and was greatly influenced by it. Sam’s character just isn’t interesting to me, and whenever he went on and on about her, I was rolling my eyes.

The ending of The Perks of Being a Wallflower threw me for a bit of a loop. It was completely perfect and well-established by the text and at times I even wondered if something like that was coming. Still, the epilogue knocked my feet out from under me. I just am not used to epilogues containing any actual plot. Well, this one does and that plot packs a brutal punch. If you’re the sort of person who cries at books often, the epilogue should be called Sob City. It’s dark and painful, but also inspiring somehow, which is pretty damn impressive. It also brings the journey of the rest of the novel into stark relief.

I’m sort of at a loss for what to say about this one without spoilers, so I guess I’ll just exhort you to give this book more of a chance than teen Christina did. This is a YA classic for a reason.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

Perks in this moment i swear we are infinite

6 responses to “Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #69: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky”

  1. Katrina says:

    I really loved this book, and I love the movie too!

    Katrina @ Chased By My Imagination
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  2. I can understand readers being uncomfortable with the use of drugs and the NBD attitude towards them. But as someone who was not much younger than Charlie at the time this novel took place, I can say it’s true to the time period. It was illegal, sure, but there was no peer pressure NOT to smoke weed or cigarettes.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that it wasn’t shown in an unflattering light because in 1992, it wasn’t a taboo or unflattering thing to do.

    Sam reminded me of some of my punk/grunge girlfriends. Offtopic- lord the 90s were fabulous.
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    • Christina Franke says:

      It’s hard for me to comment on 1992 in particular, because I was five, but I do see your point. Honestly, I don’t really care. Smoking is one of those things I am very up in arms about, and I’ve docked a lot of books for it where other’s do not.

      Actually, though, I still don’t really think there’s much, if any, peer pressure against smoking. I know the popular kids still did. Nobody cared about me and my anti-smoking feelings.

      The 90s were fabulous, from what I recall, though I’m glad we’re not dressing like that still.

      • We are kindred spirits in that regard. I hate hate hate smoking and have never so much as put a cigarette to my lips. Smoking seems to be on a decline with kids though, I think more people are finding it thoroughly disgusting (thank god). I guess in this case I would prefer the story be realistic and stay true to the time period instead of include a message to not smoke. As much as that may still be needed, if that makes sense. To each their own!

        I do not miss the clothes, either. There are many questionable photos of me from high school in 90s attire. Ugh.
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  3. Blech, just thinking about the epilogue and ending is making me cry! I love this book!
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    • Christina Franke says:

      I didn’t cry, but maaaaan was I stunned. I had sort of wondered if something was up, but it still knocked the rug from under me to have it confirmed. Just, like, yeah so that happened.

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