By Katie Weitkamp/The Studio editor
“The Perks of being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky, is just about everything you would expect from a coming of age novel. The loner kid, who wasn’t always a loner, but had some sort of tragedy, struggling to get through high school, finds a group of misfits to hang out with and he gets happy.The protagonist, Charlie, is every bit the oddball who can’t keep his emotions under control, has a hard time with relationships and has untapped knowledge. But he’s not so extreme to the point where it’s unbelievable.
The entire book is a collection of letters, which Charlie writes to an unidentified person, and the only thing we know about this person is that Charlie admires him because he had the chance to sleep with a girl, but didn’t take it.
Sometimes the letters are very in depth and talk about his past, his sister’s problems with boys, his relationship with his late aunt Helen or his desire for his friend Sam (Samantha), while other letters are short and just talk about his future plans or hopes on a surface level.
The book is a great expression of the pains of growing up, being rejected, hurting other people, death and mental illness. It is easy to identify with Charlie because he has everyone’s insecurities, everyone’s doubts and everyone’s fears of the future.
And, of course, the book has those quotes that fit into everyone’s growing up experience. Those quotes like: “We accept the love we think we deserve.”
Most of the time they come from Charlie’s English teacher, who takes an active role in Charlie’s adolescence. He is the type of teacher who would assign Charlie special assignments because he says Charlie is capable of great things in the future. In the end, he becomes more of a friend, inviting Charlie to come over to his house and telling Charlie to call him by his first name.
The book even has a soundtrack to go along with it. Charlie is obsessed with music and mix tapes, and since the book is set between 1991 and 1992, the songs include the Smiths, Ride, Suzanne Vega, Smashing Pumpkins and Genesis — typical outcast music.
But every coming of age novel is compared to “The Catcher in the Rye,” which is even one of Charlie’s readings assigned by his English teacher. And “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” has the same kind of lasting universal theme and is, for the most part, believable.
But there comes a part in every coming of age novel where the protagonist gives into his/her own demons and steps outside the average entry into adulthood experience, and life for them gets just a little worse. The main problem I saw with this book was that Charlie’s end experience wasn’t quite believable for most readers who were able to identify with Charlie.
I was skeptical at first, thinking the book was going to be a “dear diary” type format that every eighth grade girl has attempted to perfect, but this time it worked and showed a real high schooler struggling with his own demons.
I give “The Perks of being a Wallflower” five out of five palettes.