The Perks of Being a Wallflower (by Stephen Chbosky)

22 09 2010

There used to be a day when a coming-of-age story was almost synonymous with The Catcher in the Rye. Today, I’ve seen The Perks of Being a Wallflower, appear on many best coming-of-age lists. The similarities between the aforementioned classic are obvious: intelligent 15-year-old Charlie needs to discover himself and the world around him during his freshman year at high school.

Even though Charlie is an introverted person – a wallflower – he’s by no means unpopular at his high school and he soon has a firm set of dedicated friends, most importantly Patrick – the not so closet gay – and his stepsister Sam, who Charlie has a not so secret crush on. At the same time Charlie faces all of the high school dilemmas that any average teenager encounters: sex, drugs, weird family relationships, the Rocky Horror Picture Show and the seemingly endless search for “being infinite”. Charlie’s intelligence is also noticed by the almost obligatory observant teacher (Bill, in this case) who gives Charlie extra reading material (a.o. The Catcher in the Rye).

However, this novel clearly sets itself apart from the long tradition of coming-of-age stories, because Charlie really isn’t your average 15-year-old. Although it is never explicitly mentioned in the book, you can clearly read that Charlie not only suffers from a past that has been haunting him, he’s also clearly autistic, which adds to the awkwardness of the writing style. In this case, I don’t mean bad awkward, just different awkward. The book is written as an epistolary novel (and by the way, there’s a lot of crying in the book, girls, boys, men…), with Charlie writing to an anonymous ‘dear friend’, so the language used throughout is clearly Charlie’s language: strange, awkward, unconventional but always honest.

Chbosky has really created a character with a completely unique mindset, but he also succeeds in giving that character a voice and sustains that voice until the end of the novel. Stephen Chbosky hasn’t written The Catcher in the Rye again, but he has succeeded in writing an honest, heartfelt story and it will be interesting to see how he will handle the movie script that he’s apparently writing himself (please not another Dead Poets Society!).



2 responses

2 10 2010
ALA | Book on text messaging teens prompts most book challenges of 2009 « Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] “The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Anti-Family, Offensive Language, […]

18 09 2013
The Pigman (by Paul Zindel) | Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] of literature (e.g. it’s more than casually referenced on Frank Portman’s King Dork, and in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and John Green has almost made it his mission to stress its importance. Contemporary coming-of-age […]

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