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Insightful,
Beautiful,
Dramatic

10 reviews

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
by Stephen Chbosky

Published: 1999-02-01
Paperback : 213 pages
44 members reading this now
72 clubs reading this now
33 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 9 of 10 members
Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor. This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of ...
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Introduction

Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor. This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

This is the story of what it's like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.

Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up.

Editorial Review

What is most notable about this funny, touching, memorable first novel from Stephen Chbosky is the resounding accuracy with which the author captures the voice of a boy teetering on the brink of adulthood. Charlie is a freshman. And while's he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. He's a wallflower--shy and introspective, and intelligent beyond his years, if not very savvy in the social arts. We learn about Charlie through the letters he writes to someone of undisclosed name, age, and gender, a stylistic technique that adds to the heart-wrenching earnestness saturating this teen's story. Charlie encounters the same struggles that many kids face in high school--how to make friends, the intensity of a crush, family tensions, a first relationship, exploring sexuality, experimenting with drugs--but he must also deal with his best friend's recent suicide. Charlie's letters take on the intimate feel of a journal as he shares his day-to-day thoughts and feelings:

I walk around the school hallways and look at the people. I look at the teachers and wonder why they're here. If they like their jobs. Or us. And I wonder how smart they were when they were fifteen. Not in a mean way. In a curious way. It's like looking at all the students and wondering who's had their heart broken that day, and how they are able to cope with having three quizzes and a book report due on top of that. Or wondering who did the heart breaking. And wondering why.
With the help of a teacher who recognizes his wisdom and intuition, and his two friends, seniors Samantha and Patrick, Charlie mostly manages to avoid the depression he feels creeping up like kudzu. When it all becomes too much, after a shocking realization about his beloved late Aunt Helen, Charlie retreats from reality for awhile. But he makes it back in due time, ready to face his sophomore year and all that it may bring. Charlie, sincerely searching for that feeling of "being infinite," is a kindred spirit to the generation that's been slapped with the label X. --Brangien Davis

Excerpt

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Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions

1. Why do you think Charlie wants to remain anonymous? Have there been times when you wish you could have, or did?

2. Would you be friends with Charlie? Why or why not?

3. What do we learn about Michael? Do you sympathize with Charlie's reaction?

4. What do you think about Susan's relationship with her boyfriend? When Charlie tells Bill, did you think Bill would call his parents? Do you think that was the right thing to do? What do you think of her parent's reaction?

5. Discuss Charlie's reaction to his brother and sister throwing a party. What did you think about the couple in his room? What about Charlie's response?

6. What do you think being a wallflower is? Do you agree with Bob's definition?

7. How do you feel about Patrick and Brad's relationship? Do you think Patrick is understanding of Brad's feelings? What chance at a relationship do they have? Do you think that you can have a 'true' relationship built on secrets?

8. Charlie mentions that his dad "had glory days once." What do you think Charlie's glory days will be? Do you think he is worried about not having any?

9. Discuss Charlie's family holidays. Are there elements that are universal to every family dynamic? Has anything about Charlie's family surprised you? Describe aunt Helen. What kind of person is she?

10. Talk about the mixed tapes in the story. Are you familiar with the songs and bands? Why do you think Charlie speaks about them so often?

11. Do you like that the story is told through letters? Do you feel you know the kind of person Charlie is? His friends and family?

12. Several important issues come up during the course of the book, ranging from molestation to drug use. How does Charlie deal with these? How have the issues affected his friends and family?

13. Charlie has a few breakdowns. Do you feel hopeful for him? How much of his past explains his present?

14. Charlie's friends are moving away at the end of the story. Where does this leave Charlie? Can he make new friends?

15. Bill is very supportive of Charlie. How does this affect Charlie?

Suggested by Members

would you think your teenager would like this book?
by lizblair (see profile) 06/12/15

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