There are some books that define a period of a single person's life.
And there are some books that define a generation.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of those books that impacted and, in turn, defined a generation of people. It's a quintessential book of the 1990s. It's my generation's coming of age story. It's angsty. It's gritty. It's honest. It talks about things a lot of other books of the time would gloss over quickly or never even hint at in the first place - drugs, sexuality, depression, social awkwardness, introversion, abuse. You name it, this book probably had it within its pages. It's a book that taught people how to be open with themselves and about themselves.
Set in suburban Pittsburgh and narrated by a boy who calls himself Charlie, this book is told through a series of letters. Within these letters Charlie depicts various scenes of his life in vivid detail. He writes to his anonymous recipient with poignant and blatant honesty about all the wrongs and rights of his life. It is perhaps because he himself does not know to whom he is writing, having never met the person before, that Charlie is able to share what he does.
It becomes clear through these letters that Charlie is the epitome of the term wallflower. As a freshman, Charlie is new to adolescence and high school and all that both entail. He begins this year shortly after the suicide of his only real friend, Michael. He cannot rely on his parents or siblings because they don't understand his shy and socially awkward nature. Only his Aunt Helen, who was killed in a car accident on his seventh birthday, ever truly understood him. However, despite this he makes friends with two seniors - siblings Sam and Patrick, and they introduce him to the world. Through them he learns how to carry on with his life despite all the setbacks he has come to face.
There's really so much more to this book than I can do justice without giving too much of it away. So I'll stop there. However, it's the first book that I remember friends completely identifying with the characters depicted within its pages. I've had it recommended to me countless times, always with the same fervent pleading to read it finally.
I'm glad that I did. Part of me wishes I had read it back when I myself was Charlie's age - I think it might have resonated more with me the way it had with my friends if I had. But, that doesn't mean that it didn't do anything for me. This book moved me in a number of ways and I can fully understand why many name it as one of their favorite books. It's raw. It's emotional. It's real. It doesn't hold back where many other books/movies/etc have. It tells it like it is/could be and makes no apologies for that. That's something I can respect.
Author: Stephen Chbosky
Date Finished: 20 July 2012
First Line: August 25, 1991. Dear Friend, I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn't try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have.
Last Line: So, if this does end up being my last letter, please believe that good things are with me, and even when they're not, they will be soon enough. And I will believe the same about you. Love, Charlie. [whited out for spoiler's sake]
Favorite Line: I feel infinite.
Recommended: Yes, but understand it may not be as good as it could have been if you read it back in the 90's