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The Perks of Being a Wallflower | Stephen Chbosky | Reviewed by Ria

"So this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I'm still trying to figure out how that could be." 
Perks book cover
I feel really privileged to be reviewing The Perks of Being a Wallflower here on Blogger's Bookshelf, as I'll whole-heartedly admit it's one of my favourite books of all time. 

'Perks' follows the story of an introverted and awkward freshman called Charlie as he grows up in the early 90's, starting high school and navigating life in general. He meets Patrick, an out and proud senior at a football game along with his equally vivacious sister, Sam, and they lead him into a life of teen dating, drugs and drama. But don't let this premise fool you into thinking this is some flippy chick-lit. Charlie's story is real and complex, full of complicated questions and the confusing time of growing up. It deals with issues of sexuality, friendships, suicide, mental illnesses and family secrets. Told through the medium of anonymously addressed letters the book gives the impression that Charlie is talking directly to you and by the end you feel as if you know him as his 'Dear Friend'. 
There are many reasons why I love this book. The characters themselves are sharp and quick witted and lovable, but desperately vulnerable and human at many points in the story. The setting itself evokes a feeling of nostalgia, harking to a time pre-Internet and social networks, leaving the reader to simply concentrate on the characters themselves. 
Then there's the writing. Chbosky, writing as Charlie is steeped in philosophical questions, beautiful metaphors and imagery. The whole book has been pulled apart for it's memorable quotes, some of the most famous being, "And in that moment, I swear we were infinite." and "we accept the love we think we deserve." - the use of these in particular have been rather annoyingly saturated since the movie came out *le sigh* - but are none the less memorable moments in the novel. 
Perks book cover1
So my verdict?
Having read this before the film came out I'm admittedly quite biased about liking this book. Though I haven't gone through everything Charlie has, the feeling of being an introvert in a world that expects you to shun being a wallflower at every turn is something that I found I could relate to. The writing is beautiful and I definitely have a soft spot of Patrick - my favourite character in the book. The letter format can be jarring at times, especially during the more harrowing parts of the novel, and it's sometimes unclear to decipher who Charlie really is. But when you take into account his age, his disturbing back story and the whole idea that this is a coming of age novel, it's not supposed to be clear and flowing. Your teenage years and life rarely is and that's what I feel this book captures. 

Reading Soundtrack:
Asleep: The Smiths; Gypsy: Suzanne Vega; Come As You Are: Nirvana; Something: The Beatles; I'm Going Home: The Rocky Horror Picture Show; Landslide: Fleetwood Mac; Cough Syrup: Young The Giant

For lovers of...coming of age novels, The Perks of Being a Wallflower movie, and anything on Charlie's book list.

*all photos in this post (c) Ria Cagampang

This review was written by regular reviewer Ria. Get to know her here!

1 comment

  1. Great review! Your comment about the nostalgic element is so astute - despite all the pain and loneliness that's articulated throughout, I definitely got that from it too. I only read this very recently, but as a slightly older teen at the time the novel is set, I wish I'd read it years ago.

    I feel it's a novel of a generation - a bit like a 90s Catcher in the Rye. I love the simplicity of the prose, the intimate, confiding tone he creates. I thought it was one of the most affecting novels I've read in a while!

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