Thursday, 29 November 2012

Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

by Charlotte Knighton
If you haven’t read the book or seen the film here’s a bit of background. The Perks of Being a Wallflower was first published in the USA in 1999, but only reached the UK in 2009. It tells the story of a teenage boy (Charlie) who never feels like he fits in and is trying to figure out what exactly is wrong with him. Unusually, the novel is written purely in the form of Charlie writing letters to a person he has never met. The book starts by describing the death of his friend, Michael. This would appear to be where his troubles start as it is clear to see how the death affects him; however as the novel progresses it is hinted that his problems started before then and there is something deeply wrong that has happened to him as a child.   

Now I admit one of the main reasons for me wanting to watch the Perks of Being a Wallflower was the fact that Sam (the main female character), was played by Emma Watson and, being a fan of the Harry Potter series, I felt I needed to see what she had moved on to. I hadn’t realised until a short while before I went to see the film that it was an adaptation of a book, so a rush to buy and read the book before I saw the film ensued. It’s a small book, only 231 pages in my edition, and it didn’t look like it would be a particularly difficult read, and indeed it didn’t take too long. However, in those 231 pages, are so many small references to future happenings and so many hints about Charlie's past that it is a book that you have to read carefully, not one you can skim read (as I found out). The plot twists and turns in many places weaving an intricate, and slightly confusing, pattern of people and implied experiences. You are left wondering about the significance of the mysterious Aunt Helen until the very last letter that Charlie sends, although she was mentioned continually throughout the book from the very beginning. In some of Charlie’s very first correspondences he mentions his advanced English teacher, Bill, who will later become key in Charlie's struggle against his past.

Near the start of the novel we are introduced to one of the main characters. He is initially introduced as “Nothing” but we find out his real name is Patrick. Later in the novel Patrick will become Charlie’s link to Sam and his only real friends. Sam, the person to whom Charlie feels closest, is the one who brings him out of his shell and teaches him what most people find out on their own about life. Despite this it is Patrick who first sees Charlie for who he really is. "You see things and you understand. You're a wallflower." This quote is so significant because it is the first time that Charlie feels noticed, the irony is that it is the first time he has not been a wallflower.

In Charlie's last letter he explains to some extent what he has been through and he also shows you how far he has to go.

Throughout the whole book, through all the letters and the drama that Charlie has to deal with, the point seems to be that Charlie can realise “there comes a time when you have to see what life looks like from the dance floor”. A simple enough quote, yet perhaps it tells his whole story. And not just his. Maybe it tells the stories of all the wallflowers in the world who have at some point realised that they can't remain in the shadows forever.


  1. the most amazing film!!

  2. Such a good book and film ...


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