I first read The Perks of Being a Wallflower about a thousand years ago, by which I mean in high school. So when I saw that a movie version was being made—more than a decade after the book’s 1999 release—it seemed like a logical time to go in for the reread.
Perks is a weird little book. It’s written as a series of letters from lead character Charlie, a quirky and potentially clinically depressed freshman who shortly into the school year befriends a group of decidedly cooler seniors, including brother-sister duo Patrick and Sam, the former openly gay (which, in a My So-Called Life sort of way, appears to be simultaneously brave and routine at their high school) and the latter the immediate object of Charlie’s bumbling affections. Over the course of the school year, Charlie experiences a series of teenage rites of passage: His first party, his first hookup, his first pot brownie, etc. In some situations, Charlie’s mildly autistic inability to read social cues comes across as endearing, while at other moments—such as when, during a game of truth or dare, he’s dared to kiss the prettiest girl in the room and goes for Sam instead of his girlfriend—Charlie fails miserably at being what every 15-year-old really wants to be in high school: at least normal enough to fit in with a group of friends.Continue reading “The perks of being a wallflower? Probably very few, at least until college”