Chbosky, Stephen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. MTV 2012 (reprint). ISBN 978-1451696196 224 pp. $15.99
This first novel by MTV books has a sex, drugs, and rock flavor, but underneath is a depth and character and a serious story told with humor and honesty.
Charlie enters high school a sensitive loner, dealing with the loss of two loved ones. A first year English teacher recognizes his intelligence and potential, and makes an effort to reach out to him, giving him special books and assignments. The mentor encourages him to participate in life. Charlie takes this message to heart and becomes friends with two seniors, who support and encourage him, and sometimes take advantage of his selfless nature. Charlie, who enjoys poetry and the Rocky Horror Picture Show, often goes along with the crowd just to see what happens, whether its smoking pot, kissing a gay male friend, or standing up in the back of a speeding pickup truck, music blaring.
Like Last Days of Summer, Perks is an epistolary novel, told in letters that Charlie writes to “Dear Friend.” The intended recipient is never disclosed, but the format allows Charlie to be completely honest and sincere. As a writer, he becomes a participant observer rather than just a wallflower as he relates the details of his experimentations and spiraling depression as his best friends prepare for college.
The most beautiful thing about this novel is the perfectly captured poignant voice of this resilient and true young man. The climax is a shocker that will leave you short of breath. Freshman Charlie is reminiscent of observer Holden Caulfield from, with a dash less cynicism and money; fans of Catcher in the Rye will no doubt enjoy this first novel from Stephen Chbosky.