Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Plot Summary:
After losing his best friend, and aunt, Charlie escapes into a dark place to deal with those loss of the two people he loved very much. After a hospital stay, and countless therapy sessions, Charlie emerged from the darkness and is thrust into high school that leaves him scared and unsure. However, to his relief, he meets Patrick and Sam (a brother and sister duo) who not only accept Charlie, but becomes his mentors. Although Patrick and Sam are older, Charlie receives a crash course in relationships. First of all, Patrick is gay and is in a secret relationship with Brad who is struggling with his own sexuality and happens to be on the football team. Sam, according to Charlie, is the most beautiful girl he has ever seen, is with a college guy named Craig. In many ways, Sam and Patrick fill a void in Charlie's life since his brother is away at college and his sister is preoccupied with her boyfriend(s), which leads to a devastating predicament that Charlies' family members are very used to. However, when Charlie starts dating Mary Elizabeth, he can't stop thinking about Sam, which confuses and irritates him to where he makes a very bad decision. Despite being surrounded by a world of dysfunction, and complication, Charlie starts to realize how bad he wants to be loved and to love someone in return. In this story of growing up, Charlie does whatever he can to stay steady despite a few detours and quite a bit of back tracking including a stage production of Rocky Horror Picture Show, a bad LSD trip, and falling in love.

Critical Evaluation:
In this story, told in a series of letters, Charlie tells us about his experiences and secrets that not only convey the hardships of adolescence, but how difficult this struggle is for someone like Charlie. Clearly, the reader will identify that Charlie suffers from Depression, which stems from his friend's suicide and his aunt's untimely death. In many ways, Charlie feels responsible for these deaths and has a hard time letting go, which is difficult for anyone to experience. As an adult, I remember how sensitive I was as a teenager, which is only part of the process of puberty, but is indicative that teens are starting to realize that nothing in life is forever, which becomes Charlie's mission in life: to find the infinite. Despite the fact that every worse case scenario occurs in this story, readers will realize that teens like Charlie exist, which not only send us a pretty wicked reality check, but force us to appreciate what we have in life.

In many cases, Charlies' relationships with his friends are his saving grace since he feels he cannot confide in his parents because of their awful pasts that are stained with abuse. Furthermore, he starts to notice that the past has come back to haunt them when his own sister ends up with an abusive boyfriend and his brother is trying very hard to escape his reality. With Patrick and Sam, not only did they accept him in an instance, they didn't run away or reprimand him he would break down and cry. Through Patrick and Sam, Charlie meets a variety of characters that not influence his life, but provide guidelines as to how life and human relationships work. Readers, older and young, will have no problem identifying with the problems Charlie faces, which not only expose the ridiculousness of adolescence, but provide a funny, poignant, and heart breaking reflection on how adults often forget the beauty of being young and reckless. I will admit the ending left me heartbroken, I did not give hope that Charlie will be all right.

Information about the Author:
According to his publisher's website, Stephen Chbosky was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He graduated from University of Southern California with a degree in film writing. Chbosky went on to to create his first film, The Four Corners of Nowhere, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and actually won the Best Narrative Feature at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. Along with his first film, Chbosky wrote:
 the screenplay for the critically acclaimed film adaptation of Rent; and co-created and served as executive producer of the post-apocalyptic drama, Jericho, which found a place in television history when its cancellation prompted fans to send over 40,000 pounds of nuts to the network in protest. He edited and contributed material to John Leguizamo’s Broadway show, Sexaholix; he also edited Pieces, a collection of short stories for Pocket Books.
Stephen Chbosky is currently working on a film adaption of The Perks of Being a Wallflower starring Emma Watson and Logan Lerman.

Teen Contemporary Fiction, Teen Romance

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to The Perks of Being a Wallflower:
Awards & Recognition:
  • Starred Review School Library Journal (06/01/1999)

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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