The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Digital Audiobook narrated by Noah Galvin
Published by MTV Books on August 14, 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Young Adult
Length: 225 pages or 6 hours, 8 minutes
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The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a story about what it’s like to travel that strange course through the uncharted territory of high school. The world of first dates, family dramas, and new friends. Of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Of those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.
It is a bit awkward listening to The Perks of Being a Wallflower. First of all, because of the letter format, it felt like listening to someone dictate their diary. Secondly, Charlie seems really young. He’s a fifteen-year-old freshman, but he reads a little more like a pretentious twelve-year-old. I can see where people love this book, but it wasn’t a great fit for me. I found myself impatient and bored. I can’t help but wonder if I’d connect better with the movie? By 30%, I was waiting for the book to get-on-with-it-already.
Besides bored and awkward, though, The Perks of Being a Wallflower frustrated me. Listening to this one, I couldn’t help but feel like people kept taking advantage of Charlie and his naivety. He is smol and philosophical and while I don’t particularly like him as a character, or relate to him, I can’t help but be an annoyed outsider while his friends seem to treat him like a floppy-eared puppy. I dunno. That was just the feel of it for me.
There are a lot of heavy themes in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Suicide, molestation, domestic abuse, rape. There’s a lot to it that makes it difficult to listen to content-wise. If you can think of a trigger warning, it’s probably discussed subtly. In that way, it reminds me a bit of a YA version of The Cider House Rules. Charlie is one of those people who has a terrible home life, but accept it. Early on in the book, he talks about how sometimes our lives can seem bad but someone else’s life is always worse.
The writing is easy to get through – it flows very naturally from one topic to another. Stephen Chbosky does a very good job of creating a chain of consciousness in a teenager’s mind. However, because of the nature of this writing style, Charlie’s story doesn’t really have a beginning or an end. There isn’t a proper plot in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It’s just Charlie’s life – who he is, what he knows, and what he remembers. And that’s okay, but I wish there was a little bit more growth. I wish there were more happy moments. I understand that life isn’t always well-balanced. Some peoples’ lives are a genuine bummer. But there’s a reason why I reach for high fantasy, or comedy, or anything with growth and magic and light. Charlie has ups and downs in his life, but his downs are really downs. And the way people treat him really bothered me. All except for his teacher. I loved teachers like Bill in high school.
I walked out of The Perks of Being a Wallflower feeling a bit down and disappointed. I guess it just wasn’t that magic book for me.