The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

4.5 2286
by Stephen Chbosky

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Read the cult-favorite coming of age story that takes a sometimes heartbreaking, often hysterical, and always honest look at high school in all its glory. Now a major motion picture starring Logan Lerman and Emma Watson, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a funny, touching, and haunting modern classic.

The critically acclaimed debut novel from Stephen


Read the cult-favorite coming of age story that takes a sometimes heartbreaking, often hysterical, and always honest look at high school in all its glory. Now a major motion picture starring Logan Lerman and Emma Watson, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a funny, touching, and haunting modern classic.

The critically acclaimed debut novel from Stephen Chbosky, Perks follows observant “wallflower” Charlie as he charts a course through the strange world between adolescence and adulthood. First dates, family drama, and new friends. Sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Devastating loss, young love, and life on the fringes. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie must learn to navigate those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

A #1 New York Times best seller for more than a year, an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults (2000) and Best Book for Reluctant Readers (2000), and with millions of copies in print, this novel for teen readers (or “wallflowers” of more-advanced age) will make you laugh, cry, and perhaps feel nostalgic for those moments when you, too, tiptoed onto the dance floor of life.

Editorial Reviews

Denise Kersten
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is part of an MTV Books series that targets teen-age readers. But it is more mature than most young adult literature and can be enjoyed by older readers as well.
USA Today
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A trite coming-of-age novel that could easily appeal to a YA readership, filmmaker Chbosky's debut broadcasts its intentions with the publisher's announcement that ads will run on MTV. Charlie, the wallflower of the title, goes through a veritable bath of bathos in his 10th grade year, 1991. The novel is formatted as a series of letters to an unnamed "friend," the first of which reveals the suicide of Charlie's pal Michael. Charlie's response — valid enough — is to cry. The crying soon gets out of hand, though — in subsequent letters, his father, his aunt, his sister and his sister's boyfriend all become lachrymose. Charlie has the usual dire adolescent problems — sex, drugs, the thuggish football team — and they perplex him in the usual teen TV ways. He hangs out with a group of seniors, among whom are Patrick and Samantha. Patrick is gay, and Charlie learns about gay. Sam is pretty, and Charlie learns about heartbreak. Sam is, alas, going out with Craig. Charlie goes out with the uppity Mary Elizabeth. Patrick goes with Brad but breaks up with him when Brad's father discovers their relationship. Into these standard teenage issues Chbosky infuses a droning insistence on Charlie's supersensitive disposition. Charlie's English teacher and others have a disconcerting tendency to rhapsodize over Charlie's giftedness, which seems to consist of Charlie's unquestioning assimilation of the teacher's taste in books. In the end we learn the root of Charlie's psychological problems, and we confront, with him, the coming rigors of 11th grade, ever hopeful that he'll find a suitable girlfriend and increase his vocabulary.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 UpAn epistolary narrative cleverly places readers in the role of recipients of Charlies unfolding story of his freshman year in high school. From the beginning, Charlies identity as an outsider is credibly established. It was in the spring of the previous school year that his best friend committed suicide and now that his class has gone through a summer of change, the boy finds that he has drifted away from old friends. He finds a new and satisfying social set, however, made up of several high school seniors, bright bohemians with ego-bruising insights and, really, hearts of gold. These new friends make more sense to Charlie than his star football-playing older brother ever did and they are able to teach him about the realities of life that his older sister doesnt have the time to share with him. Grounded in a specific time (the 1991/92 academic year) and place (western Pennsylvania), Charlie, his friends, and family are palpably real. His grandfather is an embarrassing bigot; his new best friend is gay; his sister must resolve her pregnancy without her boyfriends support. Charlie develops from an observant wallflower into his own man of action, and, with the help of a therapist, he begins to face the sexual abuse he had experienced as a child. This report on his life will engage teen readers for years to come.Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst-the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye.

Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie's no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous "friend," Charlie's letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie's family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he's gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, whichresolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen.

A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Product Details

MTV Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Media Tie-In
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.90(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

From Part One

August 25, 1991

Dear friend,

I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn't try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have. Please don't try to figure out who she is because then you might figure out who I am, and I really don't want you to do that. I will call people by different names or generic names because I don't want you to find me. I didn't enclose a return address for the same reason. I mean nothing bad by this. Honest.

I just need to know that someone out there listens and understands and doesn't try to sleep with people even if they could have. I need to know that these people exist.

I think you of all people would understand that because I think you of all people are alive and appreciate what that means. At least I hope you do because other people look to you for strength and friendship and it's that simple. At least that's what I've heard.

So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I'm still trying to figure out how that could be.

I try to think of my family as a reason for me being this way, especially after my friend Michael stopped going to school one day last spring and we heard Mr. Vaughn's voice on the loudspeaker.

"Boys and girls, I regret to inform you that one of our students has passed on. We will hold a memorial service for Michael Dobson during assembly this Friday."

I don't know how news travels around school and why it is very often right. Maybe it was in the lunchroom. It's hard to remember. But Dave with the awkward glasses told us that Michael killed himself. His mom played bridge with one of Michael's neighbors and they hear said that he suspected that Michael had "problems at home" and didn't feel like he had anyone to talk to. That's maybe why he felt all alone and killed himself.

Then, I started screaming at the guidance counselor that Michael could have talked to me. And I started crying even harder. He tried to calm me down by saying that he meant an adult like a teacher or a guidance counselor. But it didn't work and eventually my brother came by the middle school in his Camaro to pick me up.

For the rest of the school year, the teachers treated me different and gave me better grades even though I didn't get any smarter. To tell you the truth, I think I made them all nervous.

Michael's funeral was strange because his father didn't cry. And three months later he left Michael's mom. At least according to Dave at lunchtime. I think about it sometimes. I wonder what went on in Michael's house around dinner and TV shows. Michael never left a note or at least his parents didn't let anyone see it. Maybe it was "problems at home." I wish I knew. It might make me miss him more clearly. It might have made sad sense.

One thing I do know is that it makes me wonder if I have "problems at home" but it seems to me that a lot of other people have it a lot worse. Like when my sister's first boyfriend started going around with another girl and my sister cried for the whole weekend.

My dad said, "There are other people who have it a lot worse."

And my mom was quiet. And that was that. A month later, my sister met another boy and started playing happy records again. And my dad kept working. And my mom kept sweeping. And my brother kept fixing his Camaro. That is, until he left for college at the beginning of the summer. He's playing football for Penn State but he needed the summer to get his grades right to play football.

I don't think that there is a favorite kid in our family. There are three of us and I am the youngest. My brother is the oldest. He is a very good football player and likes his car. My sister is very pretty and mean to boys and she is in the middle. I get straight A's now like my sister and that is why they leave me alone.

My mom cries a lot during TV programs. My dad works a lot and is an honest man. My Aunt Helen used to say that my dad was going to be too proud to have a midlife crisis. It took me until around now to understand what she meant by that because he just turned forty and nothing has changed.

My Aunt Helen was my favorite person in the whole world. She was my mom's sister. She got straight A's when she was a teenager and she used to give me books to read. My father said that the books were a little too old for me, but I liked them so he just shrugged and let me read.

My Aunt Helen lived with the family for the last few years of her life because something very bad happened to her. Nobody would tell me what happened then even though I always wanted to know. When I was around seven, I stopped asking about it because I kept asking like kids always do and my Aunt Helen started crying very hard.

That's when my dad slapped me, saying, "You're hurting your aunt Helen's feelings!" I didn't want to do that, so I stopped. Aunt Helen told my father not to hit me in front of her ever again and my father said this was his house and he would do what he wanted and my mom was quiet and so were my brother and sister.

I don't remember much more than that because I started crying really har d and after a while my dad had my mom take me to my room. It wasn't until much later that my mom had a few glasses of white wine and told me what happened to her sister. Some people really do have it a lot worse than I do. They really do.

I should probably go to sleep now. It's very late. I don't know why I wrote a lot of this down for you to read. The reason I wrote this letter is because I start high school tomorrow and I am really afraid of going.

Love always,

September 7, 1991

Dear friend,

I do not like high school. The cafeteria is called the "Nutrition Center," which is strange. There is this one girl in my advanced english class named Susan. In middle school, Susan was very fun to be around. She liked movies, and her brother Frank made her tapes of this great music that she shared with us. But over the summer she had her braces taken off, and she got a little taller and prettier and grew breasts. Now, she acts a lot dumber in the hallways, especially when boys are around. And I think it's sad because Susan doesn't look as happy. To tell you the truth, she doesn't like to admit she's in the advanced english class, and she doesn't like to say "hi" to me in the hall anymore.

When Susan was at the guidance counselor meeting about Michael, she said that Michael once told her that she was the prettiest girl in the whole world, braces and all. Then, he asked her to "go with him," which was a big deal at any school. They call it "going out" in high school. And they kissed and talked about movies, and she missed him terribly because he was her best friend.

It's funny, too, because boys and girls normally weren't best friends around my school. But Michael and Susan were. Ki nd of like my Aunt Helen and me. I'm sorry. "My Aunt Helen and I." That's one thing I learned this week. That and more consistent punctuation.

I keep quiet most of the time, and only one kid named Sean really seemed to notice me. He waited for me after gym class and said really immature things like how he was going to give me a "swirlie," which is where someone sticks your head in the toilet and flushes to make your hair swirl around. He seemed pretty unhappy as well, and I told him so. Then, he got mad and started hitting me, and I just did the things my brother taught me to do. My brother is a very good fighter.

"Go for the knees, throat, and eyes."

And I did. And I really hurt Sean. And then I started crying. And my sister had to leave her senior honors class and drive me home. I got called to Mr. Small's office, but I didn't get suspended or anything because a kid told Mr. Small the truth about the fight.

"Sean started it. It was self-defense."

And it was. I just don't understand why Sean wanted to hurt me. I didn't do anything to him. I am very small. That's true. But I guess Sean didn't know I could fight. The truth is I could have hurt him a lot worse. And maybe I should have. I thought I might have to if he came after the kid who told Mr. Small the truth, but Sean never did go after him. So, everything was forgotten.

Some kids look at me strange in the hallways because I don't decorate my locker, and I'm the one who beat up Sean and couldn't stop crying after he did it. I guess I'm pretty emotional.

It has been very lonely because my sister is busy being the oldest one in our family. My brother is busy being a football player at Penn State. After the training camp, his coach sa id that he was second string and that when he starts learning the system, he will be first string.

My dad really hopes he will make it to the pros and play for the Steelers. My mom is just glad he gets to go to college for free because my sister doesn't play football, and there wouldn't be enough money to send both of them. That's why she wants me to keep working hard, so I'll get an academic scholarship.

So, that's what I'm doing until I meet a friend here. I was hoping that the kid who told the truth could become a friend of mine, but I think he was just being a good guy by telling.

Love always,

Copyright © 1999 by Stephen Chbosky


Meet the Author

Stephen Chbosky wrote and directed the feature film adaptation of his award-winning novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. He has worked in film and television, on projects including the film version of the smash-hit musical Rent; the TV show Jericho; and others. He also edited Pieces, a collection of short stories for Pocket Books. A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Chbosky graduated from the University of Southern California’s Filmic Writing Program. His first film, The Four Corners of Nowhere, premiered at Sundance Film Festival. Follow Stephen on Twitter @StephenChbosky.

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The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) 4.5 out of 5 based on 8 ratings. 2286 reviews.
sand7s More than 1 year ago
Very interesting and entertaining. Very good book. finished it very quickly
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read all the time and it is so rare that a book i read makes me feel so much. I can relate to this book so well considering i just compleated my first year of high school just like Charlie. This book is so real and so beautiful. At points Charlies life gets so terrible that you want to crawl on your bed and hold yourself in hopes that if you feel better, Charlie will too. And then there are the parts where this book plasters a smile onto your face. It reveals the true feelings of a teenager and the heartaches of high school. This isn't a book where everything turns out right, because this book is real, and in real life things sometimes dont turn out how we would like it. I loved this book and i thank the author for writing it because it made me feel for Charlie and it changed my perspective on high school.
pineconie More than 1 year ago
I've loved this book for years, i lost my copy in a move and bought the ebook so i couldn't lose it again. there is so much that he is able to say in just a few words but those words go right to your heart and take ahold. The main character transcends gender lines to grasp each person who reads his story and you feel as though a mirror is being held up to that part of you that you've always wanted to understand but never quite did before. This book is superb and i've given it as gifts and re-read it yearly. It's an interesting and quick read but you'll learn what it means to feel infinite!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have purchased this book, given it to friends, and repurchased it several times. I just feel like I always need to have a copy. I have reread it every time I need to feel what freshmnan year of highschool was all about. For better or worse this book dredges up the actual physical feelings of high school.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Omg i love this book it keeps you entertaned for hours i keep reading it over n over really awesome book <3 IT LOVE IT LOVE IT
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just loved reading this book! And everyone who likes reading books that mess with your emotions should read it 100 percent! Putting this book down was super hard! This book had me in tears. Made me burst out laughing and brought a smile to my face. This book made me so angry I wanted to scream and so happy I wanted to dance. Its truly fantastic. Charlie is a character like no other and you get attached to him so easily. It was a shame when I ended the book. Because I wanted it to go on. And never end. I wanted to grow with Charlie. I recommend this to anyone who has a heart!??
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Perks is the kind of book that falls into your lap after a friend of a friend of a friend read it and passed it along until it came to you. That's exactly how I got my hands on it in the late 90's when I was still in high school. Once I finished the passed around copy, I went and bought a fresh one for myself. Once my younger sister started high school, I bought her a copy and she started the chain all over again. I specifically remember reading this book the first time and feeling like I understood Charlie exactly. Everyone has felt as he does at one point or another, and that what makes you really feel for him. When you get to the end you feel sad that your friend has moved on and you find yourself wondering how he is and what he's up to. It's hard not to get wrapped up on this story and feel close with the characters. I laugh and cry and the same parts each time I read it. I still have my original copy from the 90's, and I keep it by my bed to this day as a 30 year old adult. Obviously, I highly recommend this book not because you'll necessarily remember what happened, but because you'll remember how it made you feel. This book put a lot of things into perspective for me as a young person, and still sticks with me 15 years later. That should say something of this story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an insightful look into the life of Charlie through letters. Charlie writes anonymously to someone who we also do not know, all we know about the characters is that they all attend the same high school. Charlie is a wallflower, he sees and notices everything, everyone, but no one notices him. That is until he meets Sam and Craig, the step-siblings who show Charlie a new side of life. As Charlie falls in love with Sam he realizes what true love means. Craig who is homosexual finds how love hurts when his boyfriend, the captain of the football team, pulls away from Craig in fear of being outed. Throughout the story you follow Charlie's inner most thoughts on everything in his life and I recommend this book to everyone I know because it is simply and incredibly insightful novel that will connect on some level with everyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book when I was in high school that was more then 10 years ago. But I loves it then so much that I gave it to my little brother who was going in to high school. It is such a good book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book had me all in since the first page. It was very well writen and the author captured what it is like being an akward yet intelligent young man. I reccommend this book to anyone over13 because there was some scenes that were intense and not for younf readers. But if u think ur ready u will really enjoy wachting Charlie and his heaert capturing life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very tender story that I am rereading even though I just finished it this morning. It's one of the rare books that has me surrounded even when I am not reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down! It is just so honest and well written, I highly recommend it to anyone/ everyone!!
risuena More than 1 year ago
Interesting glimpse into when teenagers find themselves. When I started the book, I liked how the author wrote it in the style of letters. It made the first person narrative more entertaining and different in comparison to telltaling through a diary. After several pages, I found myself questioning Charlie's age compared with his experiences and his level of writing. Some of the things he's becoming aware of like death, girls, or other people's feelings seem like it should be through the eyes of a 6th grader, even his writing reflects this. So I thought either Charlie was delayed in some way or the author has forgotten the coming of age period. But then the author mixes in driving lessons, drugs, and leaving for college in so I think the issue is with Charlie himself. As you read further, you see the changes and progress he's made, you find what's affected him that he's blocked out, and you end in seeing him in a better place than where he's started. The author doesn't concentrate on any issue thoroughly but gives us a whirlwind glimpse of teenage issues, feelings, and thoughts-from contemplation of suicide, losing a friend to suicide, losing family and friends either from death, moving on, or fights, first love, making friends, awareness of other people's feelings, abuse, smoking, homosexuality, teenage pregnacy, therapy, etc.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's definitely my favorite book. It's like a more modern Catcher in the Rye.
JOSHUA0125 7 months ago
Stephen Chbosky’s, “The Perks Of Being A Wallflower”, tells a story of a smart, yet confused boy named Charlie. This novel takes place around the early 90’s. As Charlie had just dealt with the loss of his friend, Michael, to suicide and he begins his first year of high school alone. The loss of his loved ones revolve around many of his issues that he deals with in this piece. His friends, allow Charlie to grow from being a fearful, young boy to one with an optimistic perspective of life. The character conceals his emotions and thoughts throughout this novel as begins and ends his journal entries. Conflict involved in this story is mostly internal for Charlie as he must hide his prominent feelings’ from his nonexclusive love interest, Sam. A theme being in “The Perks Of Being A Wallflower” was his relationships’ with his allies in the book. The terms were effective among many because many readers could relate their descriptions as to them. Ethos was spread among this novel as Charlie has a difficult time dealing with his Aunt’s loss. I felt emotional sorrow for him as he feels guilty for her passing. Throughout his dealt, Charlie results to smoking, alcohol, drugs which is influenced among his closest allies.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm not much of a reader; I tend to stick to whatever I have to read for school and books that come out with movies. Usually, when a movie comes out for a book that I haven't read yet, I don't let myself see the movie until I have read the book. I have finally read this book and I can't wait to see the movie! Although I am no longer in high school, I was able to relate to a lot of what happened in this book. Chbosky did an amazing job telling a story about the many rites of passage that teenagers may go through. No one reader will be able to perfectly relate to Charlie's life, but many of us have experienced at least one similar event or another that occurs in the story. While I was reading this book, I kept trying to imagine how I would respond to Charlie's letters if he were writing to me and if I were to write back. A lot of what happens to Charlie can be hard for readers to feel without experiencing the events themselves but, to me, the author's writing allowed me to feel like I was in Charlie's shoes. Throughout the story, I felt Charlie's pain, joy, fear, love, and many other emotions that he was experiencing during his unpredictable journey of his first year of high school. I would recommend this book to high school students and to anyone who is older. This book could be used as a guide to survive situations like Charlie's, or as a tool to reflect on experiences of the past and how they could have been taken on or perceived through a different set of eyes. I truly enjoyed reading this book and I am anxious to see how the movie will compare.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really like this book and think it is great even though it has some mature themes such as sex and drugs. It has some very inspirational themes and i would reccomend it to high schoolers and mature middle schoolers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Some explicit content but loved every minute of it. Definetly not for anyone less than high school age though. Amazing book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the most depressing yet uplifting books ive read truly a work of art for ages twelve and up contains drugs use underage drinking sexulality including rape and molesting and homosexuality which i dont have a problem with but you might oh and suicide its sounds bad but really sweet book i read it and im twelve one of my all time favs dont care if you buy it just read it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rape, suicide, sex, drugs, underage drinking, homosexuality,molestation, abortion...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In the Perks of Being a Wallflower the main character, Charlie is a freshmen in high school. Charlie is shy and doesn't really have friends. The conflict is internal because he is contemplating everything. In the story charlie opens up when he meets his friend Sam and Patrick.Charlie stubbles upon Patrick and finds out his secret. Charlie also develops a relationship, but doesn't really last. The thing i liked about this book is that its a fast paste reading book and the author 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book and I'm in my first year of highschool too so I could really connent and this book spoke to me in many ways so everyone should get a chance to read it I love this book!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book will make you cry. It is just so beautiful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read many books. Many, many, many books. And this book is my all time favorite. It offers a unique perspective on life and friendship. It shows us how everyone has imperfections. It teaches the power of love. This book is sad but good at the same time. I highly reccomend it! If you haven't read it yet READ IT NOW!!!!!! By the way- The movie is great too, but the book is better!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting, letter-style format. Quick read, but a heavy book. Felt very depressed the day after I read it. However, it is well written and engaging. I would recommend this to 13+ young adults and adult readers. Would be good for a book club. Lots of discussion topics. The book also offers the opportunity to read between the lines and speculate about character motives and character development. The teen years are different for everyone, but every reader will be able to find one character, situation, or concept they can relate to. The book will cause every adult to experience memories of those awful and awkward, yet wonderous years. It will remind teens they are not alone. Life is hard for everyone--in different ways, of course--but we all shoulder some burden or pain that shapes who we are and how we "participate" in life.