- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: MTV Books; Media Tie-In ed. edition (Feb. 1 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0671027344
- ISBN-13: 978-0671027346
- Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.3 x 17.8 cm
- Shipping Weight: 200 g
- Average Customer Review: 1,080 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower Paperback – Feb 1 1999
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What is most notable about this funny, touching, memorable first novel from Stephen Chbosky is the resounding accuracy with which the author captures the voice of a boy teetering on the brink of adulthood. Charlie is a freshman. And while's he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. He's a wallflower--shy and introspective, and intelligent beyond his years, if not very savvy in the social arts. We learn about Charlie through the letters he writes to someone of undisclosed name, age, and gender, a stylistic technique that adds to the heart-wrenching earnestness saturating this teen's story. Charlie encounters the same struggles that many kids face in high school--how to make friends, the intensity of a crush, family tensions, a first relationship, exploring sexuality, experimenting with drugs--but he must also deal with his best friend's recent suicide. Charlie's letters take on the intimate feel of a journal as he shares his day-to-day thoughts and feelings:
I walk around the school hallways and look at the people. I look at the teachers and wonder why they're here. If they like their jobs. Or us. And I wonder how smart they were when they were fifteen. Not in a mean way. In a curious way. It's like looking at all the students and wondering who's had their heart broken that day, and how they are able to cope with having three quizzes and a book report due on top of that. Or wondering who did the heart breaking. And wondering why.With the help of a teacher who recognizes his wisdom and intuition, and his two friends, seniors Samantha and Patrick, Charlie mostly manages to avoid the depression he feels creeping up like kudzu. When it all becomes too much, after a shocking realization about his beloved late Aunt Helen, Charlie retreats from reality for awhile. But he makes it back in due time, ready to face his sophomore year and all that it may bring. Charlie, sincerely searching for that feeling of "being infinite," is a kindred spirit to the generation that's been slapped with the label X. --Brangien Davis
From Publishers Weekly
A trite coming-of-age novel that could easily appeal to a YA readership, filmmaker Chbosky's debut broadcasts its intentions with the publisher's announcement that ads will run on MTV. Charlie, the wallflower of the title, goes through a veritable bath of bathos in his 10th grade year, 1991. The novel is formatted as a series of letters to an unnamed "friend," the first of which reveals the suicide of Charlie's pal Michael. Charlie's response--valid enough--is to cry. The crying soon gets out of hand, though--in subsequent letters, his father, his aunt, his sister and his sister's boyfriend all become lachrymose. Charlie has the usual dire adolescent problems--sex, drugs, the thuggish football team--and they perplex him in the usual teen TV ways. [...] Into these standard teenage issues Chbosky infuses a droning insistence on Charlie's supersensitive disposition. Charlie's English teacher and others have a disconcerting tendency to rhapsodize over Charlie's giftedness, which seems to consist of Charlie's unquestioning assimilation of the teacher's taste in books. In the end we learn the root of Charlie's psychological problems, and we confront, with him, the coming rigors of 11th grade, ever hopeful that he'll find a suitable girlfriend and increase his vocabulary.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Perks feels more like a combination of Dead Poets Society and Stand By Me than some of the pure comedies from that era, but it has an abundance of funny scenes mixed in with the more serious and reflective observations. In short, it's a mature look at what teens have to go through. Everybody who has lived through their teen years will identify with this movie.
We see the world through the eyes of 15-year-old Charlie (Lerman). He's about to start high school and he's terrified that he won't be able to make any friends. His nightmares appear to be confirmed until he joins two students at their table during lunch. They are a little older than him, but seem sympathetic to his plight.
Minor spoilers follow, but nothing that isn't revealed in the opening minutes of the movie:
His two lunch companions are Sam (Watson), who is an outgoing girl and seems very sure of herself, and Patrick (Miller), who has already caught Charlie's eye by playing pranks in class. Charlie thinks they are a couple, but Sam is in fact Patrick's half-sister. Charlie likes both immediately and quickly becomes smitten with Sam. Patrick is flamboyant and we learn that he's gay. The friendship between the three is the very heart of the film.
The themes are not exactly original, but definitely a part of growing up. You'll see the agony of young love, drunken parties, experiments with drugs, and deeper emotional problems that most young people face at one time or another.
Another major theme is the importance of music. One scene involving the three friends features a drive through a tunnel in which they discover an unknown song on the radio. It's one of the key scenes in the movie. Not only does it capture a feeling associated with youth, it also highlights the difference between Sam and Charlie. He's shy and reserved, while she has a free spirit. We see Charlie develop throughout the movie and try to recapture that feeling. I did feel old for a moment when I realized that younger people might not know the music of David Bowie, or would consider the music of the Cocteau Twins old.
The movie touches on deeper themes that would not belong in a pure comedy, but they just add to the richness of this wonderful story. Fans of The Rocky Horror Picture Show will be pleased that a couple of the scenes touch on the influence of that movie and play a part in the overall story.
One thing that I was interested to see was the performance of Emma Watson. I did catch her small role in My Week with Marilyn, but this was the first time I had seen her in a major role since the Harry Potter movies. When you know an actor for one role in particular, it can be difficult to imagine them as anyone else, but I was impressed with Watson's performance. Although I still recognized some familiar gestures and expressions, she wasn't Hermione Granger. She's very believable as Sam.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower surprised me considerably. My teen years seem like a lifetime ago, but the movie took me right back to those formative years. I was on the verge of tears several times and laughed often. What more could you want from a movie?
One of my close friends will love this movie. Especially a scene in which someone claims that music sounds better on vinyl.
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