The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is a heartfelt, believable young adult novel with a compelling protagonist at its centre. In other words, it's exactly the sort of bildungsroman I enjoy when I'm in the mood for YA novels. There are no vampires, werewolves, or teenage blood battles in futuristic dystopias here. Rather, The Perks of Being a Wallflower tells the story of Charlie, an introverted young man who has spent life on the sidelines observing others.
Desperate for someone to listen to him, Charlie writes a series of confessional letters to an anonymous friend in his freshman year of high school, chronicling his journey from wallflower to full participant in his own life. A large part of this journey centres on his budding friendship with Patrick and Sam, step-siblings who embrace Charlie for who he is; his family, particularly the enigmatic figure of his late Aunt Helen; and Bill, an English teacher who sees something in Charlie and encourages him at every turn. Growing up is a bittersweet business though. While Charlie finds love and joy in his relationships, he also discovers that life is full of complexity and sadness.
That's probably one of the vaguest book reviews ever, but trust me when I say that Wallflower is worth reading. Chbosky gives Charlie a distinctive voice; his spare prose heightens both the humour and sadness inherent in Charlie's experiences. I found myself chuckling at certain passages and tearing up at others.
Chbosky's ouevre has received widespread acclaim since its publication and was a New York Times bestseller. The film adaptation (also penned by Chbosky) just premiered at TIFF and is slated for a widespread release next month. After having read it, I can certainly see what the fuss is about and can't wait to see the film.
Will you be reading the book or seeing the movie?
Special thanks to Simon and Schuster Canada for the review copy.