Chbosky, Stephen (1999). The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: Simon & Schuster. 213 pages.
I love this book. Everyone should read it. Have you read it yet? Well you should. Charlie is a freshman in high school and this novel serves as a series of anonymous letters chronicling his thoughts, experiences and events of his first year in high school. He makes new friends, learns about drugs, sex and homosexuality. He learns about girls, love, trust, and the truth about his past.
It is not the plot of Perks that makes it such an essential read, but the flashes of insight that are scattered throughout the book. Charlie is a distinctly likable character: he is kind and thoughtful, smart and accepting. And his narration has such thoughtful insights that grow organically from his voice. For example, Charlie is discussing Sam’s (his crush) new boyfriend:
“It’s like he would take a photograph if Sam, and the photograph would be beautiful. And he would think that the reason the photograph was beautiful was because of how he took it. If I took it , I would know that the only reason it’s beautiful is because of Sam” (pg 48).
Or as a general reflection:
“I think that if I ever have kids , and they are upset , I won’t tell them that people are starving in China or anything like that because it wouldn’t change the fact that they are upset. And even if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn’t really change the fact that you have what you have” (pg 211).
Aside from being one of my all-time-favorite-books-ever-to-be-written-in-the-history-of-the-world, this book is ideal for a teenage audience; it addresses the reader directly. And it addresses important topics to adolescents in such a way that is poignant and enigmatic. Instead of introducing this book with a normal read-aloud or book talk, I would put together a collection of quotes, like the two above and present them to an audience. I believe that best highlights the greatest strength of this novel.