The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Stephen Chbosky, Author MTV Books $14 (256p) ISBN 978-0-671-02734-6
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. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/1999
Release date: 02/01/1999
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Prebound-Other - 978-0-606-18378-9
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