Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
By: Stephen Chbosky
Published By: MTV Books, Pocket Books
Publication Date: January 1, 1999
Page Count: 213
Source: Personal Copy
Audience/Genre: YA Fiction
 Buy it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Indiebound.

The first time I picked up The Perks of Being a Wallflower it was at the urging of a large number of my 10th grade students. After 10 pages, I decided it was a DNF and couldn't understand why student after student seemed to worship this book. The second time I picked it up it was at the urging of a fellow 10th grade teacher, who made me promise I would give the book a second chance. Though the book ultimately isn't my cup of tea, I'm glad I picked it up for the second time, and this is why...

I'm not the target audience for the book, but I can absolutely see why the real target audience, 15-25 year olds, read it again and again. And again. And again. ;) (Years ago I had a student who read nothing but this book over and over again for the entire school year.) In this book, the traditional coming of age tale is presented in a new way, with a narrator who has one of the most unique voices I've come across in recent memory. I really do believe that Charlie Kelmeckis is this generation's Holden Caulfield.

For the length of the book, it deals with some pretty heavy topics pretty throughly and it doesn't sugar coat them. Chbosky treats his teen readers like the adults they long to be, and he trusts them to make decisions about the characters rather than telling them who to love and hate. Charlie is a wallflower, an outsider standing still and watching at life as it happens around him. He discovers love and regret, how to stand up for someone else and how to stand up for himself himself, and he deals with a slew of "firsts" and heavy, (in my mind) age appropriate topics like rape and drug use.

Charlie's innocence and odd, almost bipolar mood swings is what helps to make his voice unique, and the format, anonymous, confessional-style letters to an unidentified "someone" Charlie has never met, are what makes the book format unique. And I'm a bit embarrassed to say that uniqueness is what I think initially turned me off the first time I picked it up. Luckily the second time I think I "got it" and even though this isn't my favorite, I see why it is for other people.

Summary via Goodreads

Charlie is a freshman.

And while he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.

Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can't stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.



  1. Hi Julie, I found your blog through some link ups recently and thought you'd be a perfect fit for my weekly link up The Cozy Reading Spot. It's a relaxed link up for anything to do with books and reading and writing, really anything that might fit into that is linked up. It starts every Thursday and runs through the weekend, so I'd love for you to hop over and share.


  2. I didn't love this book as much as everyone else seems to, but I can also see why it is held up as a YA classic. It's a very real book.
    I'm glad that you picked this up again :)


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