A Christian Teen’s Review of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”

I’ve meant to read this book for a while, but never got around to it.  While looking for a new library book the other day, I stumbled across this one and was reminded that I had yet to read it.  Three days later I had finished an extremely moving piece of literature.

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is definitely a unique book.  It is written as a series of letters to an unnamed individual (possibly not a real individual at all, we never find out).  This gives it the special ability to write reflectively in the past tense and in an extremely personal manner.

The letters are written by Charlie, a sweet boy who is terrified of entering High School.  The letters cover nearly every month from August to August of his Freshman year and Summer.  Toward the beginning of the novel, he befriends Patrick and Sam, two Seniors who take him under their wings.  His English teacher, Bill, is also an extremely important friend to Charlie.

Now why is the book called “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”?  First look up the definition of wallflower.  If you’re too busy (or lazy, I won’t judge) to do that, here’s the definition: “a person who has no one to dance with or who feels shy, awkward, or excluded at a party.”  If you read the book, you’ll find out more about the title.  In my opening statement for this review, I decided to write a wallfloweresque epistle.  Enjoy.

Opening Statement

April 4, 2017

Dear Friend,

I read a new book this week.  I guess it was okay.  I actually finished it in three days.  It had a typical amount of swears in it, but I guess that’s to be expected.  It also had some stuff that might bother some people.  It didn’t bother me though.  It made it more “authentic”.

I found it neat that it was written before I was born.  It was published on February 1, 1999, and had a lot of music and television references.  I like music.  It makes me warm.  I have to stop spinning out like this.

The book was called “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”.  It’s probably the best example of what they call a “coming-of-age novel”.  I don’t really like that title though.  I’d rather it just be called “young adult” or “teen fiction”.

If you’ve read this book, you probably recognize this style of writing.  I just thought it’d be neat to try.

Love Always,

Nate DeRochie

Curse Count

This book started out relatively light on cursing (or as Charlie calls them, swears).  Unfortunately, it started spilling them out in the last half of the novel.  I believe a plus to this book is the fact that it doesn’t use God’s name in vain as much as other books of the same genre, but it does use stronger curse words.  The following words are roots that could form a variety of words (e.g. add an -ing or -ed).

F*ck: 10

God: 9

Sh*t (or bullsh*t): 4

Jesus: 4

Hell: 4

A**hole: 3

Pissed: 2

Bastard: 2

Faggot: 2

P*ssy: 2

D*mn: 1

B*tch: 1

Dyke: 1

Pr*ck: 1

Sex, Drugs, and Alcohol

Being a “coming-of-age” novel in the truest sense of the word, this book does contain a lot of sex, drugs, and alcohol.  While it does make the book sound more authentic and truthful, it also pulls away from the message it could give to a large Christian audience.

I should probably mention this before anything else, as other Christians who have read this book may be worried I’ll forget it: there is a gay main character.  Charlie sees him kissing another guy and talks about how they like to “fool around”.  He also briefly mentions how they had sex and who assumed what role.  Charlie is also kissed by this gay character later on in the novel (although we later find out that he didn’t want to be).  There is also a scene where this character and Charlie hang out in a gay park where homosexual men go to find someone to “fool around with”.

There are quite a few references to people having sex in this book, although Charlie mainly refers to it anatomically (he really is a sweet boy).  One such instance is a rape he witnessed before the novel begins.  Another is when he catches his sister in the basement with her boyfriend.  Later on in the novel, Charlie does “as much as you can do from the waist up” on two separate occasions.  These are not described in depth though.  Charlie also talks briefly about “self-pleasuring” toward the beginning of the novel.  Again, a largely anatomical description.

There are also a lot of drug references and uses in this book.  Charlie takes up smoking tobacco and eventually pot.  His sister attempts to convince him to stop, but he continues.  His friends and cousins do the same.  There is also one use of LSD.

Alcohol is also quite prominent in the novel, which means there is a lot of underage drinking.  Charlie drinks a few times, his friends drink frequently, and his extended family drinks whenever it gets together.

Other Observations

  • This book attempts to deal with several serious issues and seems as if it may have bitten off more than it can chew.  Some of the issues that this book attempts to deal with are suicide, rape, coping with the death of a loved one, abortion, dealing with being an outcast, drugs, homosexuality, relationship violence, child molestation, and fights.
  • As I mentioned earlier, the epistle style of this novel is extremely interesting.  We not only get to hear his reflections, but we also get to see him develop.  We get to have our cake and eat it too!  Absolutely phenomenal!
  • Charlie’s frequent ramblings may get annoying to some readers, but I found them extremely insightful.  To each his own though.
  • This book takes place in 1991-1992 with several pop culture references.  This has significantly dated the book, but it seems to have made a comeback since the release of the movie adaptation in 2012.
  • Charlie most definitely suffers from a mental illness.  This is extremely apparent from the first few pages of the novel.  As you progress, it appears that this illness is PTSD.

Favorite Quotes

  • “So, I guess we are who we are for alot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.”
  • “Sometimes people use thought to not participate in life.”
  • “I am very interested and fascinated how everyone loves each other, but no one really likes each other.”
  • “It’s much easier to not know things sometimes. Things change and friends leave. And life doesn’t stop for anybody. I wanted to laugh. Or maybe get mad. Or maybe shrug at how strange everybody was, especially me. I think the idea is that every person has to live for his or her own life and than make the choice to share it with other people. You can’t just sit their and put everybody’s lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can’t. You have to do things. I’m going to do what I want to do. I’m going to be who I really am. And I’m going to figure out what that is. And we could all sit around and wonder and feel bad about each other and blame a lot of people for what they did or didn’t do or what they didn’t know. I don’t know. I guess there could always be someone to blame. It’s just different. Maybe it’s good to put things in perspective, but sometimes, I think that the only perspective is to really be there. Because it’s okay to feel things. I was really there. And that was enough to make me feel infinite. I feel infinite.”
  • “It’s strange because sometimes, I read a book, and I think I am the people in the book.”
  • “And I thought about how many people have loved those songs. And how many people got through a lot of bad times because of those songs. And how many people enjoyed good times with those songs. And how much those songs really mean. I think it would be great to have written one of those songs. I bet if I wrote one of them, I would be very proud. I hope the people who wrote those songs are happy. I hope they feel it’s enough. I really do because they’ve made me happy. And I’m only one person.”
  • “And I guess I realized at that moment that I really did love her. Because there was nothing to gain, and that didn’t matter.”
  • “And all the books you’ve read have been read by other people. And all the songs you’ve loved have been heard by other people. And that girl that’s pretty to you is pretty to other people. and that if you looked at these facts when you were happy, you would feel great because you are describing ‘unity.”

Takeaway Lesson

Are you a wallflower?  I don’t mean the typical type of wallflower, but rather a Charlie-like wallflower.  In the book it’s described as someone who sees things, stays quiet about them, and understands.  Do you listen?  Can people trust you with their secrets?  And do you seek to understand?

Charlie cares for so many people over the course of this novel, even people who hurt him.  He’s not perfect, but he cares for everybody.  Oh that Christians would be the same!  Charlie protects his gay friend.  Would we protect someone whose lifestyle we disagree with?  I pray that these questions make you think.  They certainly impacted me.

So what do you think about “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”?  Have you ever read it?  Do you plan on reading it?  If this review has helped you in any way, please leave a like and share on social media, it helps us out a lot and allows us to continue posting reviews.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “A Christian Teen’s Review of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”

  1. I found this to be a very fair and open-minded review of a book that has a lot of subject matter that could be off putting to many devout Christians. As someone who also read it in his high school years (albeit ten years ago), I personally connected with Charlie’s love of music, reading, and his tendency to observe rather than interact. This was a great review and I enjoyed reading it. Wonderful work!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the review! I’d heard about this book, but never really looked into it. Due to the content advisory, I doubt I’ll be reading it anytime soon; but I really appreciate how fair-minded your review was.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s