Lessons from Charlie the Wallflower…

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (Plot)

The novel begins in August 1991 with a teenager going by the alias of Charlie, writing to an anonymous “friend” whom he heard someone at school talking about, and decided they sounded like a nice person to write to, on the basis that he or she reportedly did not sleep with someone at a party despite having the opportunity. Charlie states that he does not want the anonymous friend to try to figure out who he is or to find him. Charlie has just begun his freshman year of high school, his brother is at Pennsylvania State University on a football scholarship, and his sister is a senior in high school. We learn that his best—and only—friend, Michael, committed suicide prior to the beginning of the book—leaving Charlie to face high school alone. Charlie often refers to his late Aunt Helen and how she was his “favorite person in the whole world” and states frequently that something bad happened with Aunt Helen, which causes Charlie to be unable to talk about her. Soon Charlie makes the acquaintance of Sam, a beautiful senior on whom Charlie develops a crush almost instantly, and her gay stepbrother Patrick, a charismatic student who is friendly to Charlie. Upon disclosing his feelings and sexual confusion to Patrick and Sam, they are not angry with him, but rather advise him how to handle his feelings privately. Sam and Patrick continue their advisory role while introducing Charlie to many people, music artists, and drugs. Meanwhile his English teacher Bill introduces him to books and encourages him to write essays about them that he will grade despite having no bearing on his English class.

This book was a hard one to crack, in terms of understanding everything. There was a lot to take in at a time, but you couldn’t really put it down. The question that constantly floated in my mind was “What will Charlie do next?”  I’m well aware that it is under the category of fiction, but I never failed to wonder if this account of different letters were actually real. It took me by surprise that a kid, even in fiction, would be able to try all those illicit acts like drinking and using drugs. I’m well aware they weren’t regular in using drugs, but it was still surprising nonetheless.

What did I learn from Charlie and his freshman year?

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