Perks of Being A Wallflower is written in a letter style to ‘Friend’. We never find out who the ‘Friend’ is or whether he actually sends the letters or not but it seems to be therapeutic for Charlie, like a diary/journal.
The main character in Perks Of Being A Wallflower is lovely. On the first page he says ‘I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure how that could be.’ He is obviously depressed. But he wants more. He is shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years, socially awkward – a “wallflower”. He sees things on the sidelines but is always quiet. Always there but goes unnoticed. And the voice of Charlie is so authentic.
Charlie is not your ordinary teenager. He is shouldering more burdens than should be asked of any single 15 year old kid and on top of that his best friend, his only friend, has just committed suicide. Charlie’s therapist encourages him to participate and to this end he befriends Sam and Patrick, almost by accident. There are so many great characters in this novel. Patrick, who is gay, happy, outgoing and totally comfortable with himself but is dealing with a self-loathing boyfriend. Sam is a beautiful but troubled young girl who has dealt with self-esteem issues but is finally coming to realise her worth. They are the cool outsiders and they introduce Charlie to a new world of sex, drugs and trips, music.
The book obviously deals with big issues – abortion, repressed memories of sexual abuse, domestic abuse, rape, drug use, molestation. The revelation that Aunt Helen abused Charlie when she was babysitting him and he had repressed the memories is so heartbreaking.
Charlie has a lot of really good qualities. He really loves his mum. He always gets people the perfect gifts putting so much thought into them. I really liked the relationship that Charlie develops with his English teacher. And he is a really good friend. But Sam eventually tells Charlie ‘You can’t just sit there and put everybody’s lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can’t. You have to do things.’
It is a short book but it has so much packed into it. There are so many great lines/quotes in this book. Although it deals with so many serious themes there is light there too. It is a truly moving story.