The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, 224 pp, RL: TEEN

(an epistolary review of an epistolary book)
July 27, 2011

Dear Friend, 

     I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and that you were at this bookstore and could have stolen this book but didn't. I just need to know that someone out there listens and understands and doesn't try to steal books even if they could have. I need to know that these people exist.
     I just read this book and I really need someone to talk about it with. It was called  The Perks of Being a Wallflower and it's about a boy named Charlie but that's not his real name. He doesn't use anyone's real names in the book. He is starting high school and the whole book is made up of these letters that he writes to this person he calls "Friend." Charlie is a wallflower and there is this English teacher named Bill wants him to "participate" and gives him extra assignments of books to read and write about like To Kill a Mockingbird, This Side of Paradise, Peter Pan, Hamlet, Walden, The Fountainhead and The Catcher in the Rye. Which is funny because those were all books that I really liked when I was in high school. Except The Fountainhead. I thought that only stuck-up, pseudo-smart girls read Ayn Rand when I was in high school. It's funny how she is so popular with Conservative Republican men these days. The Catcher in the Rye was my favorite book in high school. Sometimes I wished I was Holden Caulfield, but he was a pretty messed up kid who ended up in a psych ward just like Charlie. But Holden starts his story from the hospital and Charlie ends his there. In the end it kind of all feels hopeful anyway.

July 29, 2011

Dear Friend, 

     Charlie is a freshman in high school in 1991. The Perks of Being a Wallflower was published in 1999. It has sold many many copies and there are always stacks of it at the bookstore I go to. In fact, I think it is actually assigned reading in a lot of high schools which surprises me, although I guess not. Charlie is a very real person with a very true voice and, if you can understand his story I think he tells a pretty universal tale, however I hope not really. You see, Charlie doesn't realize this until the end of the book, but he was sexually abused by his Aunt Helen and he blocked out that memory. He really loved his Aunt Helen. She was his mom's sister and she was the only person, besides his parents, who gave Charlie a birthday and Christmas present. Charlie's birthday was December 24, which was also the day his Aunt Helen died in a car crash when he was seven.
     That was a very sad thing for him and he cries a lot now. Charlie is very sensitive but he also has this glorious, cheerful love of people and really wants people to be happy. He makes friends with Sam and Patrick, who are both seniors. They are not dating, but are step-brother and step-sister. Actually, Charlie learns that Patrick is gay and is having a secret relationship with a popular football player. Even though the things in this story happened twenty years ago and we all would like to believe that we are a more tolerant society these days just because gay people can get married in some states and that charming boy on GLEE plays an openly gay high school student I think that there must still be a lot of boys like Brad and Patrick who are scared to let people know they are gay in high school. That's why I think The Perks of Being a Wallflower is still an important book.

July 30, 2011

Dear Friend,

     I really like Charlie even though he lives in his head a lot. I guess that's what it means by being a wallflower. Charlie's friends Sam and Patrick introduce him to a lot of things because they are older and can drive. They both go to the Rocky Horror Picture Show every Friday and Patrick plays Frank N Furter and Sam plays Janet, if you know what that means. They also introduce Charlie to alcohol and drugs and some parents might not like their kids to read about that but these kids all have some difficult things they are dealing with and checking out with those things probably makes it easier.. Charlie is in love with Sam and he tells her that but she tells him not to think of her that way and they are friends. Charlie gives really thoughtful, excellent presents to his friends, like giving Mary Elizabeth $40 to print her 'zine, Punk Rocky, in color. Mary Elizabeth and Charlie start dating but she is older and likes exposing Charlie to things like Billie Holiday and e.e. cummings then talking about it more than she really likes being with Charlie and talking to him. Because he is a wallflower Charlie doesn't know how to tell her how much he really dislikes this and things go pretty badly when his true feelings finally are known.
     I think that The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a good book to read if you feel alone or different or weird, which I think pretty much all teenagers feel at sometime or another. I think that it is even better to read if you are not a teenager because then you can be reminded of those times when you are reading it but also realize that things do get better when you get older. Small things seem like such a big deal to Charlie and his friends, but that really is how it is for most teenagers. They tend to live in pretty small worlds that are mostly circumscribed.

August 1, 2011

Dear Friend,

     I think I've pretty much told you everything about The Perks of Being a Wallflower that I can. But I would like to show you some of Charlie's writing, or I guess really it's the writing of Stephen Chbosky who is the author, so I will put some quotes in here that I liked.

     One thing Charlie thinks while he is looking at pictures of his parents when they were young is that "people in the photographs always seem a lot happier than you are. . . I just hope that I remember to tell my kids that they are as happy as I look in my old photographs. And I hope they believe me."
Once, when he was having a really tough time Charlie said something that I thought was really true and important. He said, 

     I just wish God or my parents or Sam or my sister or someone would just tell me what's wrong with me. Just tell me how to be different in a way that makes sense. To make this all go away. And disappear. I know that's wrong because it's my responsibility, and I know that things get worse before they get better because that's what my psychiatrist says, but this is a worse that feels too big.

Another thing about Charlie is that, even though he is having some tough times and crying a lot and sometimes having panic attacks and blacking out, he has a pretty good outlook and attitude about things and kind of sees the big picture, which maybe helps him not get stuck in his small world in the end. One night while he is looking out his window he thinks, 

     Sometimes, I look outside and I think that a lot of other people have seen this snow before. Just like I think that a lot of other people have read those books before. And listened to those songs.
     I wonder how they feel tonight. 
     I guess what I'm saying is that this all feels pretty fmailiar. But it's not mine to be familiar about. I just know that another kid has felt this. This one time when it's peaceful outside, and you're seeing things move, and you don't want to, and everyone is asleep. And all the books you've read have been read by other people. And all the songs you've loved have been heard by other people. And that girl that's pretty to you is pretty to other people. And you know that if you looked at these facts when you were happy you would feel great because you are describing "unity."
     It's like when you are excited about a girl and you see a couple holding hands, and you feel so happy for them. And other times you see the same couple, and they make you so mad. And all you want is to always feel happy for them because you know that if you do, then it means you're happy too.

     I actually kind of like the way he thinks, even though he is suffering and having a hard time. I really understand why The Perks of Being a Wallflower is such a popular book that sells a lot of copies. And why they might teach it in schools. In fact, I am going to leave you with Charlie's last words,

     So, if this does end up being my last letter, please believe that things are good with me, and even when they're not, they will be soon enough.
     And I will believe the same about you.

Love always,

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