Read between the lines: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Walking down a hallway filled with strangers. Figuring out who to sit with at lunch. Trying to fit in with the right crowd.

Sound familiar?

Most of us would agree that freshmen year is the most awkward and confusing year of high school. While juggling academics and trying to make your way up the “social ladder” and running into peer pressure and typical teenage drama along the way, being a freshmen isn’t always a joy ride.

Many teens may turn to reading coming-of-age novels when they feel like no one understands what they’re going through, but The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is a novel anyone can relate to. The novel is a series of letters written by fifteen-year-old Charlie, a naive and awkward outsider, to an anonymous friend about the turmoils of his freshmen year of high school. After dealing with the suicide of his best friend from junior high and the death of his Aunt Helen, Charlie isn’t quite sure what high school will bring his way.

Charlie becomes friends with seniors Sam and Patrick whom he develops an intricate relationship with. Charlie becomes a part of Sam and Patrick’s group of friends and is introduced to a world of drugs, music, sex, relationships, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and everything in between.

Soon enough, Charlie admits to having a “Charlie-esque” crush on Sam who he said was the first girl he ever wanted to ask on a date. Eventually, Sam escalates to becoming Charlie’s first love. While being an emotional wreck over Sam, Charlie finds himself stuck in a relationship with chatty Mary Elizabeth who “is a vegetarian, hates her parents and is also fluent in Spanish.” Being in a complicated relationship is one of the few awkward misfortunes we deal with in high school, and Chbosky portrays this perfectly between sensitive Charlie and talkative Mary Elizabeth.

While being trapped in a complicated relationship, Charlie messes things up with his friends when he kisses Sam in front of everyone at a party. Patrick tells Charlie to “stay away for a while” until things could get worked out again. During this time, Charlie helps Patrick cope with his sexuality by letting Patrick open up to him about how he really feels about his situation. Sometimes, we all just need someone who will listen, and Charlie is the ideal example of the type friend we all need in high school.

Since Charlie doesn’t really have any other friends, he falls back into a depression, remembering what his life was like when his loving Aunt Helen was still alive. Although Charlie is always there for his friends, he often feels very alone. His Aunt Helen was the only person Charlie ever felt a real connection with, and after she died, he lacked a sense of love and comfort. This part of the novel shows us how psychologically strained Charlie is to the point where he has several episodes of depression that begin to take over his life. Teenagers deal with all sorts of problems, whether it’s at home, with friends or self-inflicting issues and Charlie’s problems can relate to anyone dealing with the awkward stage of adolescence.

Eventually, Charlie makes things right with Sam and the rest of his friends again. As the year wraps up and everyone is getting ready for graduation, Charlie realizes how much his freshmen year of high school would effect the next three years of his life. Although his best friends are moving on to a new stage of life, Charlie is confident that he’ll be able to make it through the next few years without having them around all the time. In his last letter, Charlie explains to his anonymous friend that “things are good, and even when they’re not, they will be soon.”

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is definitely one of my favorite books of all time. Anyone can relate to Charlie; he’s shy but outgoing, funny but serious, and happy but sad. Throughout his freshmen year of high school, we see how much of an emotional wreck Charlie is and like most typical teenagers he is faced with peer pressure from his friends, family problems and genuinely enjoys having a good time. In this novel, Charlie can make anyone feel “infinite”.

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