Backlist Bonus: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

13573503by Stephen Chbosky
YA Contemporary
4 of 5 stars
Debut novel – February 1999

This short, poignant novel is the quintessential American high school coming-of-age story.

Charlie is a shy freshman befriended by senior step-siblings Samantha and Patrick. We hear about his first year through a series of letters he writes to a “friend.” Charlie has good taste in music and books but has a hard time talking to people or making friends. Sam and Patrick pull him out of his isolation and introduce him to parties and surviving class while dealing with romantic relationships, eating at diners, family problems, and living up their last year before college. It seeps nostalgia for both high school and the 90’s at every turn, with beautifully written reflective lines from Charlie as he keeps his “friend” apprised of his adventures.

Throughout the letters Charlie becomes both more open about his feelings and more evasive about the events that caused him to spend the previous summer estranged from his friends and family, and his gradual reveal of the details and how he is healing is what gives this novel the depth and grit to set it apart from the average teenage drama.

Not that it’s all serious – Charlie’s wry sense of humor sneaks in at times, and there are enough light-hearted moments to make you wistful for the few good memories you might have from those four transformative years. The author wrote the screenplay and directed the film adaptation, which is also excellent.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Mosquitoland by David Arnold – When Mim learns her mother is very sick, she runs away from her father and new stepmother to go see her. Along the way she confronts uncomfortable situations and the uncomfortable truths coming her way. See my review here.
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie – Junior makes the unacceptable decision to try to improve his life and future by leaving his reservation to attend the white high school. This has a more self-deprecating tone but is a similar story of attempting to fit in when everything is against him.
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – A high school first love that bets against first love not lasting. It has the same nostalgia/bittersweet vibe (this time set in the 1980s) and the eponymous characters have to navigate their family lives as they try to fit in and stay together. See my review here.
  • Luna by Julie Ann Peters – Told from the point of view of Liam’s sister, Regan, we watch the difficult and personal transformation of Liam to Luna as she embraces her transgender identity. This isn’t a perfect representation of a trans character, as the plot and characters can feel a bit shallow, but it’s still worth a read.
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green – This is a boarding school story but it captures the same mood as Chbosky. Miles is trying to find himself when he meets the most interesting person he’s ever encountered – Alaska Young. We get a taste of the uncertainty and longing of being almost-adults as they spend a wild few months together. See my review here.
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10 Comments (+add yours?)

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