The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky (1999)

Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Interest Level: 14-18
Perks of Being a WallflowerHonestly, I have no idea what I think of this book! I enjoyed it, but I’m 40+. I hated it at times, but I’m 40+. I can see teen appeal and I can see why some teens will hate it. Others will shrug and say meh. It was made into a film last year and it’s been on my reading list for years; when I spotted in a library display, I quickly added it to a pile, and finally read it over the past week. Charlie is 15 with few friends but an okay home. He feels quite affectionate toward his mum, dad, brother and sister, even though as the youngest he suffers from parental distraction and sibling self-obsession. The book is written as a series of letters from Charlie to an apparent stranger – better than a diary, he says, as letters, once mailed, can’t be found. It’s set in 1991, which threw me for a loop. Is it really 20 years ago? I remember 1991 quite well, but when Charlie casually describes his world, it begins to feel like historical fiction: no cellphones, no email, smoking in restaurants (!) and mix tapes. Anyway, the letters describe Charlie’s freshman year in high school as he becomes friends with a group of seniors. (Okay, in my world, that didn’t happen. Just didn’t. Like cats and dogs, or cats and mice.) He loves Samantha deeply, but she gently sets him straight though she very kindly tolerates his crush. Charlie’s hard to figure out. He cries a lot, has some depression, is apparently brilliant when it comes to novels, can’t figure out how to talk to girls, and is very naive sexually: he discovers masturbation at 15. 15! See what I mean? And yet there are brilliant moments in this novel of adolescent angst – we accept the love we think we deserve; when it comes to books, be a filter and not a sponge; on their own birthday, kids should give their mothers a gift just because. Charlie learns a lot of lessons, and overall, I liked it, but it’s not for everyone. Ultimately a keeper, with great appeal to self-doubting adolescents all around the world, and less appealing for the rest of us. And that’s okay. It’s not for us.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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