The Perks of Being a Wallflower: A Review

I’d seen the movie once before, thought it was pretty good, so I knew I’d like the book. About a year had passed by the time I got around to reading it, so it still felt like a new experience. Though the book was written entirely in letter form, the movie did a fantastic job of translating the tone, and the casting was perfect, but this isn’t a movie review; this is a book review, and with that I shall begin.

The book was so fantastic that I almost believe that God prevented my professor’s slides from working so that I would have time to finish the last ten pages.

It goes something like this.

This kid by the name of Charlie writes these letters, but he never reveals to whom they are addressed. In these letters, he tells the story of his freshman year of high school and the psychological issues with which he struggles. His two friends, Sam and Patrick, along with a teacher, Bill, support him throughout the year and bring him to realize his true potential.

The book’s title, The Perks of Being A Wallflower, is both serious and facetious all in one, but for you to understand how this can be true, I must first explain what it means to be a wallflower.

A wallflower is someone on whom life is lived. You don’t make things happen to you, you let them.

Charlie unconsciously adopted this lifestyle as he grew up. Problems with his aunt elevated this behavior and traumatized him till he was no longer able to function.

At which point he got help, first in the form of psychologists, then friends, and then both. Though his time in the hospital allowed him to recuperate, it was Sam’s message that really prompted his maturation.

She told him that he was passive, and that if he wanted to fully experience life, he needed to be active. But she not only told him, she showed him. She showed him by running through the grass at the golf course, by standing up in the truck, feeling the wind on her face as she went through the tunnel. Ultimately, by being infinite.

It’s like he hears it, over and over Charlie hears what she is saying, and he tastes the truth here and there, but he doesn’t understand it until the very end.

And then, in the back of a truck, he learns what it is to live.

To live doesn’t mean doing everything he does in the book: going to parties, getting high or drunk, being with some girl, going to the Rocky Horror Picture show, or being there for your friends, as he believes he is; his friends’ activities aren’t what will fill his life.

Instead, what matters is taking the opportunities presented to you and running with them, not holding back simply because it’s easier. Sam’s message is a message that sparks war within each of us, even if it’s not to the degree that Charlie experiences.

Overall, Perks of Being A Wallflower is a wonderful book that uses a teenager’s issues to expose our own, and it teaches us, without us knowing it, how we should fix it:

Participate.

And it leaves us with one last question:

Are you a wallflower?

(P.S. this book is not advised for young readers)

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