The Perks of Being a Wallflower
by Stephen Chbosky
The Perks of Being a Wallflower Introduction
In a Nutshell
In 1999, MTV premiered Making the Video and The Tom Green Show, their hit reality show The Real World went to Hawaii, and they got a lot of airplay out of that Prince song. You know the one. Oh, and on top of all that, they published The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
This novel by Stephen Chbosky features the three sensational things that make The Real World (and MTV as a whole) so successful: sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Although, now that we think about it, it might be more Rocky Horror Picture Show than rock 'n' roll—but there's enough music in Perks to keep you humming for hours.
The novel follows a fifteen-year-old introverted boy named Charlie through his freshman year of high school. He experiences a variety of universal teen firsts: first date, first kiss, first dance, first time acting in a gold speedo in front of a live audience. Okay, maybe not everyone's experienced that last one, but it comes with the territory in Charlie's life.
Written as a series of letters from Charlie to an anonymous recipient, it almost feels like you're reading Charlie's private diary—scandalous, we know. The book's frank depictions of teen sexuality, homosexuality, drugs and alcohol, suicide, and pretty much everything else on the censorship list have led Perks to the ALA's door many a time. But Perks doesn't glamorize these issues, nor does it get all after-school-specialy. Instead, it finds a subtle middle ground that really gets us thinking.
Why Should I Care?
Unless you're a blind Martian with a conjoined twin raising tortoises with your grandkids in the Galapagos Islands (and probably even if you are), you can find something to relate to in this book. This is especially true if you didn't have that glossy, perfect high school experience that all those yearbook and prom photos make you think you had.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an honest look into the life of a teenager, warts and all. Well, okay, everyone seems to have a perfect complexion—but other than that, it's brutally honest. And boy do we mean brutal.
The teens in this book don't have unusually large vocabularies and pretentious, philosophical conversations. Instead, they chat about music and celebrities while eating burgers in a fast food restaurant. They're not imbued with magical powers on a quest to save the world from a fate worse than utter destruction. They're just trying to graduate high school and get admitted to the college of their choice.
It's not a smooth ride, either. The characters in Perks are struggling with real problems: suicide, drug abuse, teen pregnancy. Even the happy moments—first kiss, first date, first dance—are tinged with melancholy and angst. No, this isn't a sappy feel-good teen romance. It's a tell-it-like-it-is look into the life of a teenager. Whether you want to relive your not-so-glorious glory days or you're in the process of creating your own, you'll totally get this story.