I first read this brief novel over the summer, and have since read it three additional times…over a three month period. This personal record was made possible partially by the relatively small number of pages (200 or so), but was inspired by the overwhelming merit of their content. Perks of Being a Wallflower quotes have made an appearance in my facebook statuses (and cover photo), I have waited in line for an early screening of the film with Stephen Chbosky, and I have reconstructed Charlie’s playlist on Spotify so that I too could feel infinite. There are very few stories which incite this degree of fandom in me (the only other example that comes to mind begins with “Harry” and ends in “Potter”).
However when asked to explain “what’s its about,” I become tongue tied or rattle off a conventional reply about the trials of high school. In reality, this phenomenonal novel is transcendant of typical terms of a traceable plot- the narrative is not necessarily the point. It is the unusual and perceptive narrator, Charlie, that draws my attention and holds it long after the fictional confines of his story have reached their limit.
Charlie, a high school freshman, posesses one of most unique and unassumingly profound voices I’ve encountered in contemporary literature. The incidents in his life (colorful, elating, and heartbreaking by turns) unfold through letters to an anonymous friend. The piercing confessional honesty of his experience navigates explosive issues of abortion, addiction, suicide, sexual abuse, double standards, and desire with clarity and empathy. He loves The Rocky Horror Picture Show, classic works of literature, making playlists, and writing. He finds connection and infinity in The Great Gatsby and the Smiths, but underneath all of his complexity and relatability, his unconditional desire for human happiness pervades.
Ultimately, it is both a haunting monument to that moment of personal transition from a passive observer to an active participant in your own life and a bridge between transient life and infinite art. So add it to your list, rent, borrow, purchase, or download a copy as soon as possible, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!