The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming-of-age book written by Stephen Chbosky. The book follows the story of Charlie, a socially-awkward freshman in high school who meets two free-spirited seniors, Sam and Patrick. Charlie starts to discover the joy of friendship, first love, and music. But as his new friends start to leave for college, memories from the past resurface threatening Charlie’s newfound confidence. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” has also been adapted into a movie last 2012 starring Logan Lerman, Emma Waston, and Ezra Miller.
Growing up, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is one of my favorite books. As an introvert who also happens to be a writer, I deeply identified with Charlie’s character. I too pretty much kept to myself and felt out of place in school. Mostly I kept to a corner during social situations, fully satisfied with quietly observing everyone. I was shy and didn’t have the confidence to step out and join in on others. Like Charlie, I spent so much time in my head that I didn’t actively participate in life or outside in the real world.
During one of my classes in college, we were told to do a book review. Out of the hundreds of books I’ve finished, The Perks of Being a Wallflower was the one I chose to write about. Let me share with you guys what 17-year old naive and closeted Christian passed to his professor. I didn’t get a high-mark on this one and I’m pretty sure my prof didn’t bother to read my paper at all. I felt hurt because I spent a lot of time writing and I was super proud of it at the time. Reading back though, I could totally say that it’s not my best work. Younger me couldn’t write a short summary even if his life depended on it! I did appreciate the heart I poured on this paper, even if it was totally unnecessary since it was for school. Haha.
Summary: A Shorter Version of Everything that Happened in the Book
The Perks of Being a Wallflower contains letters that Charlie writes to a friend who doesn’t know him or the people in his life at all. He talks about his experiences as they happen and mails the letter afterward.
Charlie is an introvert, but throughout the book we see him forge relationships with people. I wanted to summarize Charlie’s story through the relationships he had with the key characters in the book. Here we see how he opens himself up and breakfree from his mind to explore more of the world and his own potential.
Charlie and His English Teacher, Bill
Charlie’s English teacher, Bill starts giving him different books to read and tells him to write essays about them as an independent assignment. Bill gives Charlie books throughout the entire story that he enjoys and develops his ability as a reader and a writer. Near the end of Charlie’s school year as a freshmen, Bill invites Charlie to his townhouse with his girlfriend. Bill tells Charlie that he is smart and special. He also told Charlie not hesitate to call him or talk to him if he wants more books to read or wants any of his essays to be looked at. Even if he is not his student anymore, they can still do that as friends. Charlie responded by saying the Bill was the best teacher he ever had.
Charlie and His Family
Charlie belongs to a normal family with a father and a mother, an older brother who plays football in college and an older sister who is a senior in high school.
Charlie’s sister has a boyfriend who makes her mixtapes. His sister gives him one of his mixtapes and that is when Charlie starts to love music. His favorite song from the mixtape is “Asleep” by the Smiths. One day, Charlie finds his sister and her boyfriend arguing up to the point where the boyfriend hits his sister. Charlie promises his sister he wouldn’t tell his mom or dad. Charlie though mentions this in one of his meetings with Bill and he then reports this to Charlie’s parents. Charlie’s sister and her boyfriend start seeing each other in secret after the parents did not allow them to be together anymore. A few months after or in the middle of the book, Charlie’s sister tells him that she is pregnant and her boyfriend broke up with her, claiming that it wasn’t his child. Charlie then accompanies his sister to the clinic to abort the baby and to not let her down. The boyfriend wants to get back together with Charlie’s sister after she tells him that it was a “false alarm”. She refuses and for a few months Charlie’s sister read self empowering books until she met a new guy, graduated and got ready to go to college.
Charlie had a favorite aunt, Aunt Helen who used to stay in their house to recover after suffering from the trauma of her being molested by a family friend. She died in a car crash the day of Charlie’s 7th birthday while getting him a present.
Charlie Meets Patrick and Sam
In the bleachers during a football game, Charlie approaches Patrick who is in his freshmen shop class. This is where he meets Sam, Patrick’s stepsister. Charlie thinks that Sam is beautiful and realizes he loves her all throughout the book, but she has a college boyfriend named Craig who is a photographer and models part time.
On the drive to a party after a school dance along the tunnel, there was a perfect song on the radio and Sam gets out of the truck and stands at the trunk of the pick-up. Patrick continues to drive through the tunnel until it reveals the city beyond. This is when Charlie said he feels “infinite”. In the party, he was introduced to Sam and Patrick’s other friends: Mary Elizabeth, Alice and Bob. Bob offers Charlie a brownie and he accepts and ends up stoned. After telling Sam he wants a milkshake and she goes making it for him, he wanders inside the house to find a bathroom. He opens a door and finds Patrick and Brad, a popular football player kissing. Patrick runs after him explaining that Brad doesn’t want anyone to know and laughs when he sees Charlie stoned. Back downstairs after Charlie had his milkshakes, Patrick introduces Charlie to all the people in the party as a “wallflower” because “he sees things. He keeps quiet about them. And he understands”.
On Christmas, it is a tradition to have Secret Santa among a group of friends. Everyone gets the person they pick many gifts and reveals their identity at a Christmas party in Sam and Patrick’s house. Charlie gives everyone gifts even if he just picked Patrick. Charlie receives a suit, piece by piece from Patrick who unknowingly picked him up. After everyone leaves and Charlie and Sam were left alone, she gives Charlie his present. Her present was an old typewriter with a piece of paper saying “Write about me sometimes”. Charlie types back “I will”. Sam asks Charlie if he was ever kissed before. He answers no. When he asks about Sam’s first kiss she tells him that she was 7 years old and it was from a friend of her dad. Sam decides to forget everything, even her relationship with Craig for a moment because she wanted the first girl to kiss Charlie to love him. Charlie agrees and so they kiss.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is kind of a thing in the group of friends. All of Charlie’s friend plays in it. One night when Craig who plays Rocky doesn’t show up, Charlie is thrown in to be a substitute. His role got to touch Janet who is played by Sam all over, but Charlie doesn’t feel good about this because he thinks that it’s cheap and he wants to touch Sam as he and her, not as their roles. After the show, Mary Elizabeth asks Charlie to a Sadie Hawkins dance. Charlie does everything Sam told him to do on a date with Mary Elizabeth, to ask questions and just let her talk. After their second date and their first make-out, Mary Elizabeth announced them as boyfriend and girlfriend. Their relationship was bad because Mary Elizabeth dictates everything and Charlie just lets her talk. He is getting tired of everything: of all of “the great things” Mary Elizabeth wants to expose him to and he does not know what to do with her anymore.
Truth or Dare
Things got terribly wrong one night when they were all in a party in Craig’s house and Patrick suggested playing Truth or Dare. Charlie picked dare and when Patrick tells him to kiss the prettiest girl in the room, he kisses Sam. He wanted to be honest. Mary Elizabeth storms crying to the bathroom and Sam chases after her anger at Charlie. Patrick drives Charlie home and tells him to stay away from them for a while until things cooled down. He says that there is a history between Sam and Mary Elizabeth.
Patrick and Brad Caught
The weeks Charlie spends without his friends, things start to get bad again. He also visits Bob regularly to buy some pot. After a few of his visits, Bob mentions that Brad’s father caught him and Patrick kissing in his basement and the father beat Brad up. Patrick yelled “Stop”, but Brad told him to “Get out”. In the cafeteria when Charlie is sitting alone, Patrick is once again trying to talk to Brad, but after Brad calls him a “faggot”, the fight starts. Brad’s friends get involved and that is when Charlie goes in and attacks both of them. He is able to stop the fight and warn Bard that if he messes with his friends again he will tell everyone or if that doesn’t work, he will blind him. After detention the next day, Sam meets Charlie outside and things were back to the way they were. Mary Elizabeth is already dating a friend of Craig, Peter who has intellectual debates with her.
After the incident Patrick spends a lot of time with Charlie driving out in late nights showing Charlie different places where he had adventures. On the first night and sometimes every other night, Patrick would kiss him and Charlie would let him, not because he was gay, but because he wants to be a good friend. Patrick would talk about Brad some nights and some nights he wouldn’t.
Patrick and Sam Planning for College
Everything gets better though when all the friends can talk about is college and how different it is going to be. They are all graduating, except Charlie. Sam gets an early summer program in Penn State and from then on college is all Patrick can talk about. After the seniors’ prom, Sam discovers that Craig has been cheating with her this whole time and they break up.
On graduation day, after Charlie watches her sister graduate and waits for his relatives to leave his house, he goes to club with his friends and Sam and Charlie gets to dance together. On the night before Sam is about to leave for Penn State, the whole gang is in their house and extending the night with “remember when” and nostalgia. A
fter everyone leaves and Sam tells Charlie to help her pack things in her room, Sam asks Charlie why he never asked her out. Charlie says that she once told him to not think of her that way. When she broke up with Craig, he knows that she doesn’t need him that way and he wanted her to be happy because he really loves her. Sam explains that she doesn’t want to be somebody’s crush. She tells Charlie that he should do things, because she doesn’t feel it. He shouldn’t “put everyone else’s lives ahead of his and think that counts as love”. He should stop following what people want him to do and do what he wants. Charlie kisses Sam and when things get further and Sam touches him, he freezes and says he wasn’t ready. He has a dream that night about his Aunt Helen and late Saturday nights when they watched tv together. He drives home alone after seeing Sam go off to Penn State that morning. Then, things started to spin out of control.
He was in a hospital for weeks after that morning when his parents found him sitting on a couch naked watching TV that wasn’t on and wouldn’t snap out of it or talk to anyone. Charlie was molested by his Aunt Helen. His family was surprised when they found out, but regardless they still took care of Charlie when he was in the hospital. His brother and sister always visited and sometimes his friends would to. Sam even wrote him letters from Penn State.
When he went back home, he was glad that everything was back to normal. When Sam got back from her summer program, she and Patrick took him out to Big Boys. After that, they went to the tunnel, and played a perfect song. Charlie stood up at the back of the pick-up, saw the lights and felt the wind welcome him to the city and he swore they were infinite.
Favorite Line and Quotes from the Book
“Being a Wallflower”
A wallflower is an introverted person. This is generally a quiet and shy person who has difficulties in talking to other people or making friends. In the book, Patrick describes Charlie as a Wallflower because he sees things. He keeps quiet about them. And he understands. Charlie sees the world in a way of a curious observer. He doesn’t watch because he judges. He watches because he wonders and his train of thought goes deep into why the people around him do these things. He keeps things to himself, understands, but lets these things go on. He is special and different in a way that the other students call him a “freak”, but as he gains friends like Patrick and Sam, his days become fuller and a whole lot better.
Charlie felt infinite along with drives in the tunnel with good music playing on the radio and two of his best friends with him. There is something about hearing the quiet of the tunnel and seeing the lights reflected by the tiles on the walls and the opening far beyond that makes you feel like you can go forever. And when you get out of the tunnel and the music is louder than ever, you can feel the wind in your face and see the vast city ahead. It’s all so perfect and it feels like you’re living in the moment. You’re then and now extend from this present. You feel so alive and you’re right where you truly belong. Everything is right in the world.
“We accept the love we think we deserve.”
What we see in ourselves or how we see ourselves as people affects how we pick the people to love. In the book, Sam picks Craig because she thinks she deserves how he treats her, even if he likes a picture he took of her because of how he took it, not because it was of Sam. Charlie also did not do anything with his love for Sam because he thought that her being happy is more important than her being with him. We should think of ourselves as deserving of the great love people can give and accept it because we deserve it.
“Life doesn’t stop for anyone.”
No matter what you are facing or how bad it becomes, life still goes on outside. It is not that nobody cares about you. People can drop what they have to help you. It is life itself that refuses to stop because time doesn’t stop. You can miss a week of school, but the school would not repeat all of the classes you missed just for you. This also speaks similarly to the concept of “moving on” or grieving. Life may change in a way or two. It may or it may seem still seem duller, but you still have to go through your days because you don’t have a choice. Even when you think your life is ending, or even when you die yourself, life continues. It really isn’t a brutal truth. It’s simply life.
“You can’t just put everyone else’s lives ahead of his and think that counts as love.”
This line was said when Sam was asking Charlie why he never asked her out. You should not let people be happy with someone else or let go because she is already happy. Sam couldn’t feel the selflessness of Charlie’s even if it was sweet. You should not always think of other people instead of yourself. If you love someone, you have to show it in the way you move, the way you talk and the way you treat them. You should not put aside your own feelings because it wouldn’t do any good. You have to actually try even if you’re not allowed to because you feel you love them and you want them to feel your love.
“Even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there.”
Charlie discovers that he was molested by his aunt Helen. He spent a lot of time in the hospital. He says this line then. We may all have different pasts and we may have experiences that will haunt us, but we couldn’t change the past because it is already done. Forgetting would be the easy way out, but it sometimes isn’t possible. We should just live with what we’ve been through and carry what we learned to journey through the future of our choice.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower’s Impact on My Own Coming of Age
This book is one of my favorite books of all time. The story is just so sincere and calming when you pay attention to every word. This book is very dear to me because I see myself in Charlie even in the way he thinks or simply in the way he is. It doesn’t hurt or feel embarrassing seeing Charlie do the things I do or think the thoughts I think. I kind of have this feeling of empathy. It was nice knowing that I wasn’t the only one who was like that. I felt understood and special in a way that made me appreciate my life.
When I also look back to my days in high school, I remember being alone all the time. I was so quiet; the voice that comes out of my mouth barely sounds raises above a whisper. I just can’t imagine living that way anymore. I honestly did not have friends. I did not talk to anyone because I simply couldn’t and I was afraid of what they’d think of me. This was also the time when all I really focused on was grades. I wanted to be better than everyone else and I put all of this unnecessary pressure on myself that I couldn’t handle. Nobody ever helped me and I always did things on my own, by myself. I pushed and pushed myself until I actually received a gold medal at the end of the year. I felt nothing about it though. Feeling relieve wasn’t even permitted because I continued to drown myself in other people’s expectations.
It was in my junior year that I found a friend or rather this friend barged into my life uninvited. She was like my own Patrick and Sam. She was so hyper happy and she took me to all of these adventures in different places. Every day was a surprise and it was like she gave my life color and my days started to revolve around her.
One day, she stopped talking to me though and I took it hard for a few months, kind of how Charlie felt during those weeks without his friends. The feeling of alienation is depressing and can really suck the life out of you. I gained other friends though, during those months. They were not like this girl but I grew to love them for the rest of my stay in high school.
A lot of my classmates at that time actually told me after watching the movie, that they saw Charlie as me. I couldn’t help but laugh because I felt that too in the theater and they just don’t know half of it! The Perks of Being a Wallflower gave me a sense of understanding that someone out there does feel the same. It inspired me to get rid of all of the weight on my shoulders and focus on doing what I love. The uncertainty of the future doesn’t matter because I know what I want and I chose to do it from here on out.
This book ironically gave me the confidence to stop being a wallflower. I learned to make friends and have endless adventures so many I hope I can keep them all in memory. That part of my life is done and this part and the rest of the way just seem so exciting!
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