It is Charlie’s freshman year of high school, and he doesn’t quite know where he belongs. He has never fit in with any of the kids his own age because he is so shy and timid. However, Charlie has a great deal of potential hiding behind his quiet ways. He is extremely intelligent, an exceptional student who receives extra reading assignments from his English teacher. He spends his days devouring the books, trying to understand the characters in them.
When Charlie meets Sam and Patrick, a couple seniors at his school, he never expects to become close to them. He admires them from afar, noting their happiness when they’re together. Sam and Patrick feel sympathy for Charlie, and they invite him into their circle. This newfound friendship brings Charlie into a world he has never experienced before.
Sam and Patrick are fearless and sometimes reckless. They experiment with drugs, have sexual relationships with others and listen to music Charlie has never heard before. Charlie soaks all of this in, noting it with a naïve perspective. He never passes judgment, even when Sam admits to him she was sexually abused or when Patrick confesses that he is gay. Patrick sums up Charlie when he finally says, “He’s a wallflower.” Charlie always watches others’ lives from the sideline, like an omniscient narrator.
Charlie quickly starts to experience what real life is like, however, when he falls in love with Sam, the only girl who has ever shown him any sort of kindness. What Charlie feels is deep, true and innocent, but Sam cannot return the feelings. Regardless, Charlie just wants happiness for his best friend.
When Charlie starts participating in life again, he starts to relive feelings he has repressed from his childhood, memories he never wanted to recall. But Charlie knows he must remember, because his haunting past is what is causing him to be so socially awkward.
Meanwhile, Charlie must deal with family problems from his sister and relationship issues as girls start to like him. In order to cope with his feelings and confusion, he decides to write a letter to an unknown recipient each day. The letters are like journal entries, each detailing all of the events in his life. Charlie charters all of this unknown territory with a unique view of the world.
The “Perks of Being A Wallflower” is like no novel I have ever read before. Charlie’s character is odd and flawed, but also very kind and honest. He openly admits all of his feelings and thoughts, never filtering them. At times, his character seems psychologically unstable, but Charlie has a good heart underneath it all.
This book is perfect for anyone who has ever felt ostracized for being different, because Charlie represents a person who does not think like everyone else. The words he writes are the thoughts we’ve all said in our heads, but never dared to speak aloud.
For that reason, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is one of my favorite books with its message that extends into the depths of the mind and emotions, a place most novels have never thought to go.
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