The Perks of Being a Wallflower [NOOK Book]

Overview


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 ...

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

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Overview


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.

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  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower
    The Perks of Being a Wallflower  

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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439122433
  • Publisher: MTV Books
  • Publication date: 6/29/2010
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 596
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Stephen Chbosky

Stephen Chbosky grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and graduated from the University of Southern California's Filmic Writing Program. His first film, The Four Corners of Nowhere, premiered at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival and went on to win Best Narrative Feature honors at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. He is the recipient of the Abraham Polonsky Screenwriting Award for his screenplay Everything Divided as well as a participant in the Sundance Institute's filmmakers' lab for his current project, Fingernails and Smooth Skin. Chbosky lives in New York.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is his first novel.

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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,
Charlie


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,
Charlie

Copyright © 1999 by Stephen Chbosky

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First Chapter

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 heard the gunshot.

I don't really remember much of what happened after that except that my older brother came to Mr. Vaughn's office in my middle school and told me to stop crying. Then, he put his arm on my shoulder and told me to get it out of my system before Dad came home. We then went to eat french fries at McDonald's and he taught me how to play pinball. He even made a joke that because of me he got to skip an afternoon of school and asked me if I wanted to help him work on his Camaro. I guess I was pretty messy because he never let me work on his Camaro before.

At the guidance counselor sessions, they asked the few of us who actually liked Michael to say a few words. I think they were afraid that some of us would try to kill ourselves or something because they looked very tense and one of them kept touching his beard.

Bridget who is crazy said that sometimes she thought about suicide when commercials come on during TV. She was sincere and this puzzled the guidance counselors. Carl who is nice to everyone said that he felt very sad, but could never kill himself because it is a sin.

This one guidance counselor went through the whole group and finally came to me.

"What do you think, Charlie?"

What was so strange about this was the fact that I had never met this man because he was a "specialist" and he knew my name even though I wasn't wearing a name tag like they do in open house.

"Well, I think that Michael was a nice guy and I don't understand why he did it. As much as I feel sad, I think that not knowing is what really bothers me."

I just reread that and it doesn't sound like how I talk. Especially in that office because I was crying still. I never did stop crying.

The counselor 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 hard 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,
Charlie


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. Kind 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 said 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,
Charlie

Copyright © 1999 by Stephen Chbosky

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Introduction

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

By Stephen Chbosky

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 upduring 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?

Stephen Chbosky grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and graduated from the University of Southern California's Filmic Writing Program. His first film, The Four Corners of Nowhere, premiered at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival and went on to win Best Narrative Feature honors at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. He is the recipient of the Abraham Polonsky Screenwriting Award for his screenplay Everything Divided as well as a participant in the Sundance Institute's filmmakers' lab for his current project, Fingernails and Smooth Skin. Chbosky lives in New York.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is his first novel.

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Interviews & Essays

In his literary debut, Stephen Chbosky immerses readers in one boy's journey from passivity to passion. The second novel in MTV Books's fiction line, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the story of Charlie, a 15-year-old wallflower, whose candid perceptions and all-too-recognizable struggles poignantly reflect the emotions and confusion of growing up. More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters convey his impressions and confusion amid the chaos of his first year of high school. From the suicide of his best friend and his unusual relationship with his family to the disorder of falling in love, Charlie evokes the truths of coming-of-age in the 1990s.

Barnes & Noble.com: Can you tell me how you got The Perks of Being a Wallflower published by MTV Books?
Stephen Chbosky: I was actually one of the lucky people. A good friend of mine, Chris, who is quite an excellent screenwriter, read the book and really liked it. He especially liked the part where Bill tells Charlie, "We accept the love we think we deserve." For some reason, that really got him. And there was this girl, Heather, that he was really interested in [...]. Heather went to school with Eduardo Braniff, head of MTV Books, and Jack Horner, who is an ICM literary agent and my agent now. She just sent it off to those two, and six weeks later I had a publishing deal.

bn: You have vast experience in film, yet this is your first book. How different do you think the process of writing a novel is versus writing a screenplay?
SC: That depends if you mean the process of working within both businesses or just the artistic processes by themselves. In regards to artistic process, both types of writing are very confining and very liberating. A screenplay needs to be much more structured than a book, but there is a lot of freedom in that structure. I have written 12 screenplays, and once you get to know the basic rules -- not of storytelling but of how structure works, how sequences can fit into other sequences -- once you understand that structure, there is a lot of freedom, because you can see the whole construct. But that is also a prison, obviously, because it is limited. You usually only have 120 pages with film, and the tangents are less. You are supposed to get lean and mean and just tell the story. Novel writing is the same, but the exact opposite. The freedom is in the fact that you can go internal and go inside your characters' thoughts or feelings. In terms of comparing the business side of publishing versus movies, the primary difference is that in literature, you pretty much deal with one person, your editor, while with movies there are many people.

bn: Which creative process do you prefer?
SC: It is a give-and-take, because writing screenplays allows me to approach my writing in a different way. My fiction tends to be much less indulgent. And by writing fiction, my screenplays are approached with more inspiration.

bn: Do you think there is a stylistic similarity between your films and your novel?
SC: No, not really. Writing the novel was a very specific experience. Actually, the novel itself began in college. However, when I was in school, it was just horrible. I wrote 70 pages and it was just angry, despondent, and stupid. The only thing that survived was the title and the bit about Uncle Billy.

bn: Was the college version of The Perks of Being a Wallflower in the letter form that it is in now?
SC: No it wasn't. Originally I thought of calling this book Letters from a Friend, and the way I was going to do it was by imagining what would happen if I went to my mailbox one day to find a letter from my mom, maybe some junk mail, possibly a postcard, and included with the mail was a letter from some complete stranger with no return address, nothing. The mere fact that he/she knew that I would be reading it (maybe they know me, maybe they picked me out of a phone book) would allow them such amazing freedom to be able to share things that they probably wouldn't write in a diary.... I was going to write [this novel] and just claim that I edited it -- that it was a real kid. I wouldn't be doing it as a scam. It would be to let the reader or let the reviewer approach it with that much less prejudice. It was like, Wow, this is a real anonymous who just happened to send it to me and I edited it. That was an idea for The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I even tried it as a screenplay three times, but that never worked. But the [character] just kept knocking at the door, and I couldn't get Charlie out of my head. Then, in the summer of 1996, I was going through a really rough patch in my life, and it was truly one of the most remarkable writing experiences that I ever had -- it was as if Charlie tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Here I come." He just said he was ready, and suddenly Letters from a Friend become The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

bn: While reading this book, I kept thinking that this would make a great movie. Why do you think it failed cinematically?
SC: I think that it could be a movie. Why did it fail? I don't know. I think because at that point, the book was not complete. I think I know now what parts I would put in the 120 pages, but I couldn't start with any restrictions.

bn: How autobiographical would you consider The Perks of Being a Wallflower?
SC: There is very little autobiography to it, but it is unbelievably personal. In a strange way, by not writing autobiographically, I was able to approach the themes and the feelings that I was having much more intimately. I always think that with autobiography, there is a nostalgia to it -- you color it a certain way, and you are not as honest, in an odd way. You are either reporting facts or asking, "How could I be so young?" In this sense, it is a very, very personal book, but it is not particularly autobiographical.

bn: In terms of research, what type of brushing up on high school did you have to do, if any? Did you go back to high schools, or is the high school experience still fresh in your mind?
SC: It was still that fresh in my head. With all the themes, it was like I channeled this book; on that Saturday morning when Charlie came to me, this stuff about the rat or mouse experiment, all of it just flooded back. Everything. A lot of these little bits or these little moments of stories that I picked up -- they all fused into one thing.

bn: Are you working on another book?
SC: I am currently working on a novel called Rusty the Anarchist. There are two things I am working on in terms of literature, one being this novel and the other a collection of short stories called Labor. It is all about people and their jobs. MTV Books has the first look at my next project. I always thought that young writers, whatever they do, are almost always in a hurry to prove that their other books weren't a fluke, to just get it going. The thing that was so special about this book was that there was no agenda; it wasn't part of a career path. It wasn't anything other than something that was very important to me.

bn: Any films on the horizon?
SC: At the end of last year, I rewrote a movie for Miramax, and right now I am working on a project called "Paper Anniversary," about the first year of marriage, and this farce called "The Butterfly Effect," which is about city politics in Atlanta. Atlanta is such a fascinating city -- there is so much going on in Atlanta.

bn: What are the last couple of books that you read and really loved?
SC: I just finished The Stand, which I have never read before, and I thought it was just terrific. And before The Stand, I read Crime and Punishment and Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. I don't really read a lot of contemporary fiction. I guess The Stand would be considered that, but I just figure that something has been around for 600 years for a reason. I also recently reread The Great Gatsby and Don Quixote. You can't miss with the classics.

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Reading Group Guide

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

By Stephen Chbosky

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?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3167 )
Rating Distribution

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(68)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 3173 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Read Review!!!!!!!

    I would give you a summary of this fantastic book, but I don't want to give too much away. It's basically about a boy and his first year in high school. That's the one thing young readers need to watch out for because (I'm sorry to say) high school isn't exactly... uhmm... appropriate all the time, as shown in this book. The Perks of Being a Wallflower has very deep, easy to connect with characters and a plot that won't let you put the book down. Because of it's high school setting I wouldn't recommend this book for people under 13, but if you think you can handle the story without your parents flipping out too much, than go for it, cause this book will leave you with 100 hundred that aren't even yours. There are parts where you WILL cry (I guarantee it), parts where you will want to scream at the top of your lungs and not care who stares at you, and parts that will throw a smile on your face....not PUT a smile on ur face but that smile will THROW itself there. Pick up this book and read it NOW!!

    387 out of 421 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I can't think of a title good enough to capture my feelings on the book.

    It's difficult to express how I feel about this book in a typed review. In my head, I can, but it's hard to put together on a keyboard. I can say that I loved everything about it, but it feels like an understatement. I felt like I was a wallflower in Charlie's life, rather than Charlie being the wallflower in Sam and Patrick's. Toward the end of the book, I had a hard time convincing myself that I wasn't a part of this misfit group of Charlie's friends. This book made me cry. Hard. Not only because it was sad, but because it made me care. It's impossible not to care. Its heartbreaking yet simultaneously uplifting finale is the cherry on top of this slice of Charlie's life. Everything about this book, I love. But it's still a vast understatement.

    140 out of 154 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 29, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent Read!

    I loved reading this wonderful book! It is a story that keeps you entertained for hours.

    67 out of 95 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2010

    For Charlie

    In honor of Charlie, I should read this book twice. This book never left my side.

    57 out of 77 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 27, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    amazing

    The Perks of Being a Wallflower takes you through the life of an amazing child. A bright young man growing up observing and watching, always writing letters to a person he merely saw at a party. This book will take you on a journey you won't soon forget. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who can read. Chbosky has a talent for capturing your attention and then earning it with his wonderful characters and story line. A MUST read!!!

    57 out of 66 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The Perks Of Being a Walflower(:

    i LOVED this book, But what I loved most was Charlie.
    I understood him and where he was coming from I related to this book SO much which is probably why i liked it so much. My best-friend gave it too me and said "Here read this, i'm possitive you'll like it, it reminded me of you in ways." So i gave it a try and i loved it. i couldn't put it down! (:

    Read it, i'm sure you'll love it too!
    it'll make you feel.......infinate<3

    54 out of 67 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Absolutely Amazing

    "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" was among the most beautifully written and touching books I have ever read. Though you never learn the true names of the characters and the anonymous person to whom Charlie (the main character) is writing to, the reader is still left with a satisfied feeling.
    I loved every minute of this book and found myself crying with Charlie and laughing at the moments in this book I have expirienced and can relate to.
    This is a must read for anyone.

    47 out of 54 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Hooray for Charlie!

    Why is it that "good" books for teens are always so heavy? This is a book that contains themes of suicide, depression, abortion, etc. Even though it was so dark and dreary, I did like it. It had an interesting format that I've never seen before that really helped to draw the reader in and feel part of the story. Charlie, the hero, was a WONDERFUL character. He is so unique and loveable. You just want to be his friend. I'm glad that I read it!

    39 out of 61 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2009

    Love this book!

    I've read this book many times over the years, and recently bought it for a girl I know for her 15th b-day. It is actually good to read at any age, but as it is a "coming of age" story, teenagers in particular can enjoy it. I would highly recommend it to anyone who hasn't read it.

    38 out of 45 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 3, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Very interesting and entertaining. Very good book. finished it v

    Very interesting and entertaining. Very good book. finished it very quickly

    31 out of 44 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 20, 2012

    Ya know....everyone seems to absolutely adore this book...and I

    Ya know....everyone seems to absolutely adore this book...and I don't really get it.
    I don't hate this book, by any means. I don't think it is a bad book, in fact, I thought it was good.
    However, this book didn't capture me, like it apparently did everyone else. I didn't fall in love with the characters. I didn't feel overly attached to the story. In fact, I felt very few emotions at all while reading this story. It was an easy read, which can be nice. There were even things I related to in the story. I just did not connect the with the story as a whole. After hearing so many great things about this book, I was a bit disappointed.

    19 out of 43 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2012

    Beautiful

    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.

    15 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2009

    Amazing

    This is my all time favorite book. I learned so much about life and learned how to view it differently. I've read this book about 15 times and each time I read it I feel like I learn something new. I've highlighted sentences, paragraphs, and even pages that I relate to and I pass it around to my friends and they do the same. I encourage everyone to read it, it will open your eyes.

    14 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2012

    Jaded

    I do not know who would call this book either meaningful or deep. Horrible 5th grade writing at best. The author tried too hard to make it seem as if a teenager writing that it ended up sounding like a 10 year olds diary. Filled with melodrama to make it interesting (ie. Sister's abusive bf, gay friend gets caught by father, sister is pregnant, fight with girlfriend dude is not interested in, drugged...etc etc). Like other reviewers said, is this Charlie guy retarded? I suppose if he was in special ed school he would seem like an honors student... as it was, just a book that glorified bad influences, rediculous relationships, and jaded material. Seriously, teenagers, if you're reading this review, you will be very sad and upset that you spent your highschool years being experimental/spending so much effort on people you will not know by the time they go away for college, instead of getting an education and exploring interests and learning things to become cultured and well rounded. This social drama is a waste of time, both in real life and in this so-called book.

    12 out of 49 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 10, 2012

    I would not recommend this book to serious readers. The books p

    I would not recommend this book to serious readers. The books packs on a bunch of young adult tropes and ends up reading like an episode of Degrassi. I bought this book, encouraged by the favorable reviews I had gotten from friends (and Barnes and Noble reviews here online), but ended up returning it immediately after I read it. I do not usually write unfavorable reviews but the amount of praise this book is getting is, I feel, totally unwarranted. I went into this book with a positive attitude and left severely underwhelmed.

    The most obvious problem is that the main character, Charlie, is nauseatingly naive and completely unrelatable. Though the issues he experiences are promising (sex, drugs, homosexuality, suicide, etc.), they are being told from a painfully childish perspective. One chapter starts like this:

    'Do you know what 'masturbation' is? I think you probably do because you are older than me. But just in case, I will tell you. Masturbation is when you rub your genitals until you have an orgasm. Wow!'

    This is not at all how high school freshmen talk or behave. I know five-year-olds with more depth than Charlie. I know taking an extreme example out of context is unfair, but this is the most obvious example I can come up with to describe Charlie's mannerisms. Maybe the point of this book is to look at adult issues through the innocent lens of a child, but the dissonance between the situations Charlie finds himself in and his level of childishness throughout them makes Charlie an unbelievable and unsympathetic character. Chbosky has a few interesting ideas, and the film may very well end up being a hit because of them, but in the book they are simply unable to salvage the style and delivery used to tell this story.

    11 out of 38 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 30, 2010

    original

    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!

    10 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2009

    mrs. o'shane

    i absolutly hate reading but i loved this book it reall kept my attention. the book actually related to me so i understood it alot better than the books we have to read in school. i really liked how it was written in letters so i could put the book down and understand it when i picked it back up later. the perks of being a wall flower had a great story and message and it was an easy read. i would deffinatly recomend it to my friends.

    10 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2012

    Thank u

    Thank you to the person who totaly ruined the book for me. While trying to figure out wether or not to buy and read this i read a review that summed up the book. A simple dont read wouldve been fine. Jerks..

    9 out of 28 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2011

    What the hell?

    A coming-of-age story? Come on. The whole book I felt like 15yr old Charlie had the mental capacity of an elementary schooler. Not an accurate depiction of a freshman year high school student's thoughts or doings - at least, not any of the ones I knew when I was 15 and all my friends were seniors.

    9 out of 47 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2010

    I loved this book!

    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.

    9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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