Week of 5/19/2019 – Book recommendation: Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower
In February 1999, Stephen Chbosky published his debut novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Some of you may be familiar with its 2012 film adaptation starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller (a beautifully-made film, I might add), but on Monday, Chbosky officially announced that he will be releasing his second novel, entitled Imaginary Friend, in October. Upon hearing this news, I found myself reverting back to Perks, and remembering how much I loved this coming-of-age novel. In 2015, some high schools called for the banning of Chbosky’s novel in English / Literature classes, but I am on the side of the spectrum against its banning. This story was / still is important in terms of ending the stigma toward mental health. Not only that, but this novel also touches on subjects such as suicide, sexuality / sexual orientation / sexual abuse, teen pregnancy, and identity. As difficult as these subjects can be to talk about, Chbosky in no way “glamorizes” these themes; rather, he gives every reader a chance to relate to some aspect of the novel and emphasizes that we are all misfits in our own, unique way.
In the interest of writing a spoiler-free review for those who have not read this masterpiece yet, The Perks of Being a Wallflower tells the story of our wallflower, fifteen-year-old Charlie Kelmeckis, who is coping with the suicide of his best friend, Michael. To lessen his anxieties of going through high school alone, he writes letters to an anonymous friend, recounting his childhood and present-day life situations. Along the way, he meets two high school seniors, Patrick and his step-sister, Sam, who essentially show Charlie the ropes to surviving high school and encourage him to “participate” in every aspect of life, rather than just being an observer.
As mentioned, Perks deals with some hard-hitting material, but it also points out the lighter side of life, such as music, friendship, and humor. I’ve said this before about other novels I’ve reviewed, but Charlie’s story will take you on an emotional roller-coaster. High school is the time in which we really start to self-identify, so a novel touching on how much one year can really fuel our growth, is of huge importance. Filled with a plethora of highly relatable quotes, it is a story of finding self-confidence and being accepted, and by the end, we get the sense that everything will be okay.