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A Coming-of-Age Classic: The Perks of Being a Wallflower on Netflix

Stephen Chbosky, image courtesy of Amazon

When it comes to classic coming-of-age books on Netflix, there’s nothing more enduring than Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” Set in the nineties, the protagonist is Charlie, an observant and introverted narrator who talks about his experience growing up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh.

In 2012, Chbosky brought his work to the big screen while serving as director and screenplay writer. The movie is available on Netflix in select countries and stars Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, and Paul Rudd.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Summary:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a classic epistolary story, i.e., the characters express themselves through writing letters or other documents.

The protagonist, Charlie, is a fifteen-year-old high school freshman who writes letters and expresses his unconventional thoughts and experiences on the pages. Each letter starts with Charlie addressing the recipient as “Dear Friend.”

In these letters, he discusses his struggles as a high school freshman. He discusses love, family, isolation, his experiences with experimental drug use, and more.

As the letters continue through the pages, the reader becomes aware of Charlie’s traumatic experiences. The first is the suicide of his middle school friend, Michael Dobson, while the other is the sudden death of his favorite aunt, Helen.

Despite Charlie being a wallflower, he captures the attention of his teacher, who encourages his love for reading and writing. Charlie also makes friends with Sam and Patrick, seniors and step-siblings.

As the trio grows closer, we soon realize the numerous secrets between the three. Patrick is in a secret relationship with Brad, a football player. Sam, Patrick’s step-sister, also has a boyfriend named Craig and was sexually abused as a child. Meanwhile, Charlie develops a crush on Sam. Eventually, he gathers the courage to tell her his feelings; Sam turns him down but gives him his first kiss.

Charlie becomes acquainted with Sam and Patrick’s circle of friends. During this time, he experimented with various substances, including alcohol and drugs. Charlie even trips on LSD at a party and fills in a role at a Rocky Horror Picture Show performance for Craig, who couldn’t make it that night.

As Charlie’s social circle expands, he catches the eye of Mary Elizabeth, a common friend of Sam and Patrick. The two eventually formed a relationship despite Charlie still harboring feelings for Sam. Their relationship soon ended, however, when Charlie kissed Sam during a game of truth or dare in which he was dared to kiss “the prettiest girl in the room.” As Mary Elizabeth storms out, Charlie is eventually shunned by his friend group.

Now friendless and without distractions, Charlie struggles with his feelings for Sam, his trauma, and his thoughts alone. He earns the trust of his friends when he defends Patrick from a physical fight with his now ex-boyfriend, Brad, and his group of football players. Despite things going well for a while, Charlie knows that his older friends must prepare to leave for college.

Charlie helps Sam pack for her college-preparatory program and learns that her boyfriend cheated. As they talk about his feelings toward Sam, she is angry with him for never acting on them. Eventually, they engaged sexually, but Charlie stopped Sam, realizing that his encounter with Sam brought back his repressed memories of Aunt Helen molesting him as a little boy. We, as the reader, soon understand why Charlie thinks and acts the way he does.

In the epilogue, Charlie is sent to a mental hospital for treatment. Sam and Patrick visit him after his release. The trio returns to the tunnel, where they spend one last time together. As Charlie comes to terms with his past, he decides to “participate” in his current life and ends his letter writing.

Should I Read Perks of Being a Wallflower?

The Perks of a Wallflower is a classic coming-of-age tale because it talks about the struggles and awkwardness of adolescence. That sensitive period of not being a child but still not yet an adult is riddled with confusion regarding identity, relationships, and love.

Many introverted readers can relate to Charlie because he expresses his thoughts poignantly yet deliberately. While he has made mistakes, we can’t help but root for him to get better and cheer for him when he finally regains the trust and acceptance of his older friends. Charlie’s message of hope lingers on for many fellow wallflowers, who may feel invisible and voiceless in a sea of other teens like them.

While the book is undoubtedly a great start, people may also find it equally enjoyable to watch the movie. While the film has minimal differences from the book, Logan Lerman delivers a sincere and poignant depiction of Charlie. Chbosky also provides an equally faithful yet nostalgic adaptation of his book, something that we certainly won’t forget soon.

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