The Perks of Being a Wallflower
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2010)|
|The Perks of Being a Wallflower|
|Genre(s)||Young adult novel/Epistolatory novel|
|Publisher||MTV Books/Pocket Books|
|Publication date||February 1, 1999|
|Media type||Print (Paperback) and Audiobook|
|Pages||256 pp (first edition paperback)
224 pp (regular edition paperback)
|Dewey Decimal||813/.54 21+++++|
|LC Classification||PS3553.H3469 P47 1999|
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming-of-age epistolary novel written by American novelist Stephen Chbosky. It was published on February 1, 1999 by MTV. The story is narrated by an introspective teenager who goes by the alias of "Charlie." He describes various life experiences through a series of letters to an anonymous stranger. In 2012, Chbosky, acting as director, adapted the novel into a film, which starred Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, and Emma Watson.
Set in the early 1990s, the story follows Charlie through his freshman year of high school in a Pittsburgh suburb. Charlie is the eponymous wallflower of the novel. Intelligent beyond his years, he is an unconventional thinker; yet, as the story begins, Charlie is also shy and unpopular.
Fifteen-year-old Charlie is about to begin his freshman year of high school—without his best friend, Michael, who committed suicide several months before the narrative begins. In an attempt to cope with Michael’s death and his own anxiety of entering high school alone, Charlie begins writing letters to an anonymous stranger. Charlie does not feel that he can lean on his parents or older siblings for support because they never truly understand him. He laments that the only relative that he ever felt close to was his Aunt Helen, who was killed in a car accident on his seventh birthday.
At school, Charlie befriends two seniors, Sam and her stepbrother Patrick. He soon develops romantic feelings for Sam, but he believes that he has no chance with her. Sam and Patrick introduce him to many new experiences and a group of upperclassmen friends. Charlie writes about situations that he gets into with his new friends, including going to parties, driving through his town's tunnel and feeling "infinite," seeing and performing in Rocky Horror Picture Show, going on his first date, and trying various drugs. After one party, where Charlie takes LSD, the police find him passed out in the snow. In a conversation with the police and his parents, Charlie reveals that he often has visions, which implies that he is not mentally well.
Bill, Charlie's English teacher, also plays a significant role in his life. After giving Charlie a C grade on his book report, Bill begins lending him books to read outside of class and encourages him to write essays about them. He then critiques the reports to help Charlie develop better diction and syntax; with this guidance, Charlie's writing improves in the book's later letters.
Despite his feelings for Sam, Charlie briefly dates Mary Elizabeth, another girl in their clique. She takes him to their school's Sadie Hawkins dance, and they go on a few dates. At first, Charlie does not mind how one-sided their conversations are. Even so, after Mary Elizabeth buys him a book of poems, he senses a change in their relationship that he does not like. In a game of Truth or Dare at a party, Charlie is dared to kiss the prettiest girl in the room. He kisses Sam, which officially ends his relationship with Mary Elizabeth. Patrick then decides that Charlie should stay away until their relationship drama calms down.
Sam also starts a relationship with an attractive older boy named Craig. Charlie does not think that Craig appreciates Sam; he explains that if Craig took a good photo of her, he would think that it was good because of the way he took it, instead of the fact that Sam was in the picture. Sam and Craig soon break up, after Sam learns that Craig had been cheating on her with numerous girls.
Later in the novel, Charlie writes about Patrick's relationship with Brad, the quarterback of the football team who is secretly gay. One day, Brad's dad catches Patrick and Brad having sex in the basement and Brad's dad beats up Brad in front of Patrick. A week later, Brad returns to school and during lunch, calls Patrick a "faggot." Patrick reacts by throwing a fist, which escalates into a physical fight between Patrick and Brad's friends. Charlie bravely comes to Patrick's rescue and fights Brad's friends. Taught how to fight by his older brother, Charlie seriously hurts two of Brad's friends which ends the fight. Charlie helps Patrick up and warns Brad's friends that if they ever hurt Patrick again that he will blind them.
After a disturbing family secret surfaces that Charlie's Aunt Helen had molested him prior to her death, Charlie has a severe mental breakdown and is hospitalized. Still, his final letters close with a feeling of hope and determination. Even if he does not have the power to choose where he comes from, Charlie will choose where he goes in the future. 
In the novel, Charlie's English teacher assigns him various books to read. Charlie describes them all as his favorites.
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- A Separate Peace by John Knowles
- Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
- On the Road by Jack Kerouac
- Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
- Walden by Henry David Thoreau
- Hamlet by William Shakespeare
- The Stranger by Albert Camus
- The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
- This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The book also references a book of poems by E. E. Cummings, The Mayor of Castro Street by Randy Shilts, a book by Anne Rice, and an autobiography of a woman who was a character inReds, most likely Emma Goldman. The poem "A Person/A Paper/A Promise" by Earl Reum is also mentioned.
The novel references these films and tv series...
- Rocky Horror Picture Show
- It's a Wonderful Life
- The Producers
- The Graduate
- Harold and Maude
- My Life as a Dog
- Dead Poets Society
- The Unbelievable Truth
- Night of the Living Dead
- Hannah and Her Sisters
The novel references these songs:
- "Where Eagles Dare" by The Misfits
- "Asleep" by The Smiths
- "Vapour Trail" by Ride
- "Scarborough Fair" by Simon and Garfunkel
- "A Whiter Shade of Pale" by Procol Harum
- "Time of No Reply" by Nick Drake
- "Dear Prudence" by The Beatles
- "Gypsy" by Suzanne Vega
- "Nights in White Satin" by The Moody Blues
- "Daydream" by Smashing Pumpkins
- "Dusk" by Genesis
- "MLK" by U2
- "Blackbird" by The Beatles
- "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac
- "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana
- "Another Brick in the Wall, Part II" by Pink Floyd
- "Something" by The Beatles
- "School's Out" by Alice Cooper
- "Heroes" by David Bowie
- "Autumn Leaves" by Nat King Cole
- "Broken Wings" by Mr. Mister
- "I'm Going Home" sung by Tim Curry as Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Critics have identified some main themes to be teenage reality and nostalgia for adults. David Edelstein said that Chbosky captures the "feeling [that] you belong when among friends, yet you'd soon be alone" and "the pain of loss. . .[is] almost as intense as the bliss." He believes "it's nostalgia with an emphasis on nostos, pain." Another critic, Marty Beckerman, said the reason why Perks connects with kids is because it's real, the situations that occur are "so universal and happen to so many teenagers."
Another main point Chbosky wanted to express was respect for teens. In an interview with Home Media Magazine, he said he wanted to "validate[d] and respect[d] and celebrate[d] what they're (young people) are going through every day." Chbosky said that the novel is for "anyone who's felt like an outcast."
Perks is written as a series of letters from Charlie to an anonymous character. In an interview, Chbosky said that the progession of the story through letters "feels intimate" and is "like [Charlie] is talking to you."
Charlie is loosely based on Chbosky. In an interview, Chbosky said that "Charlie was [his] hope in the form of a character." Furthermore, he describes Charlie as the "closest [character] to [his] heart" in a separate interview.
For the other characters, Chbosky said he took "pieces of real people in [his] life." From that, he focused on people's struggles and things they are most passionate about and attempted to "hone in the essence of each." For example, Sam was inspired by someone that Chbosky has an equal passion to that of Charlie's for her; Patrick was inspired by a friend of his from college; Stuart Stern inspired Charlie's English teacher, Bill. The only completely fictional character was Mary Elizabeth, and Chbosky commented that he "thought about that person had that much force of nature and Mary Elizabeth was my response." He wanted the group he created to have "comfort in each other."
Chbosky said that the novel was written fairly quickly, given that he had two letters finished in a day, half of the novel in a month, and two drafts completed within a year of starting the project.
Perks of Being a Wallflower has been challenged due to its content. Interviewer, Marty Beckerman said the novel has been challenged "for its depictions of adolescent sexuality and drug use." In one instance, a Wisconsin school board declined the action to ban the book, angering the city's parents. In an interview, Chbosky stated that he knew of two specific school boards that have already banned the book, "Massachusetts and Long Island." Furthermore, Chbosky "didn't write it to be controversial book" and is "surprised" that it has been banned.
Reviewers have said that Perks seems similar to J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. Chbosky stated that he "was not trying to mimic his style as a writer." He sees "how readers could compare Charlie to Salinger's Holden Caulfield," but he thinks "they are very different people with unique problems and perspectives." Some of Chbosky's overall influences are J.D. Salinger, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tennessee Wiliams, and Stewart Stern.
The idea of Perks came from when Chbosky was experiencing a rough time. He was going through a "bad breakup" that led him to need an answer to the question "why do such good people let themselves get treated so badly" and Charlie was his ultimate answer. Throughout an interview, Chbosky said his idea for the book started in school and grew from another book he was working on. The novel helped him to understand all the thoughts and feelings he has on the world and people, since he "see[s] life the way Charlie does."
Perks has a large audience ranging from five to seven million readers.
The production company Mr. Mudd developed the film adaptation of the novel and Summit Entertainment distributed the film. Mr. Mudd's producers, John Malkovich, Lianne Halfon, and Russell Smith, hired the novel's author, Stephen Chbosky, to write an adapted screenplay and to direct the film. It was shot in Peters Township, Pennsylvania. The production starred Logan Lerman (Charlie), Nina Dobrev (Candace), Ezra Miller (Patrick), and Emma Watson (Sam). The film won the 2012 Independent Spirit Awards for Best First Feature.
- Marty Beckerman. "An Interview with Stephen Chbosky". Word Riot. Word Riot. Retrieved 27 May 2012.
- "The Perks of Being a Wallflower:Synopses & Reviews". Powell's City of Books. Powells.com. Retrieved 27 May 2012.
- Chbosky, Stephen (1999). The Perks of Being a Wallflower,Pocket Books, New York. ISBN 9781419387241
- Edelstein, David (24 Sep 2012). "Freshman Disorientation; The Perks of being a Wallflower nails teenage alienation". New York. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
- Beckerman, Marty. "An Interview with Stephen Chbosky". Word Riot. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
- Ratcliff, Ashley (18 Feb 2013). "'The perks of being' a filmmaker". Home Media Magazine. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
- FanBoltCom. "Stephen Chbosky Talks 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' (1 of 3)". Youtube. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
- CalPoly. "Stephen Chbosky on the Perks of Being a Wallflower". Youtube. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
- "Surprise! Interview with Perks of Being a Wallflower Stephen Chbosky". The Book Fever. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
- THEBIGFANBOY. "THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER - Interview with Stephen Chbosky (Writer/Director)". Youtube. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
- Wallace, James. "The Perks of Being A Wallflower writer/director Stephen Chbosky". Youtube. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
- Beisch, Ann (Dec 2001). "Interview with Stephen Chbosky, author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower". LA Youth. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
- Kristy Puchko (24). "The Perks Of Being A Wallflower Lands Release Date". Cinema Blend. Cinema Blend LLC. Retrieved 27 May 2012.
- "Best Feature Film". IFC.com. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: The Perks of Being a Wallflower|