Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower; Book Review

Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Published in 1999 by MTV Books/Pocket Books.

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One of my favorite book covers ever!

I’m varying from my typical structure for this book review because every time I think about or begin to write about The Perks of Being a Wallflower, there is one central point that I cannot get away from, Charlie. Charlie is the 15-year-old narrator of the story. The book is written in the form of letters, from Charlie to an unnamed “friend.” They are very casual and journal-like. The letters balance between accounting Charlie’s day-to-day life and mining the diamond-like thoughts he unearths before us.

Charlie writes his first letter the day before his first day of high school. He is a loner, a listener, an observer, a wallflower. His only friend committed suicide the year before and his brother, whom he was very close with, left home to attend college. He reads an obsessive amount of books, enjoys walking around his neighborhood alone, and cannot seem to stop the tornado of thoughts from swirling 24/7 inside his head.

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There are parts of Charlie that we all wish we could be
and parts that we all fear we are.

But through all that, I think the most important part about Charlie is this: there are parts of Charlie that we all wish we could be and parts that we all fear we are. He’s a thinker. He thinks about why he thinks things. He does not tunnel his thoughts; he lets them lead him. Because he thinks so much but rarely speaks, he uses writing to get the thoughts out of his head. That is where we, the readers, come in. 

The quote on the back of the book says Charlie is “caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it” and I surrender to the fact that I could not have said it better myself. The books he obsessively read is a way for his to escape, especially from his own thoughts. Its not a mistake that Charlie doesn’t think deeply about the books because if he did, it wouldn’t be much of a mistake.

We don’t worry about Charlie being a reliable narrator
because his thoughts, his interpretations
are all we grow to care about.

This next quote from the book struck me so true, it still puts a smile on my face months after I’ve read the book. “I almost didn’t get an A in math, but then Mr. Calo told me to stop asking “why?” all the time and just follow the formulas. So, I did. I get perfect scores on all my tests. I just wish I knew what the formulas did. I honestly have no idea.” Being able to plug Charlie’s personality into something as boring and irrelative as math class proves how well Chbosky was in-tuned with his character. It’s brilliant. 

I connected with Charlie (as so many people have). I felt bad for him and I felt sad with him. Written in any other point of view, this book would not be so successful. We don’t worry about Charlie being a reliable narrator because his thoughts, his interpretations are all we grow to care about.

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About Sarah JS

Aspiring writer, lover of words, book nerd, working editor, and permanent student of the world

Posted on August 18, 2014, in Book Review and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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