Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower


Charlie, we accept the love we think we deserve. 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

I wish I’d read Gone Girl before I watched the movie. Both were excellent, but while reading the book I kept anticipating the plot twists, which ruined the book for me. With The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I had a slightly different experience.

I know that people often say that “the book is always better than the movie”, but I think this is one of the cases where I would disagree. I watched the movie adaptation of this novel a few years ago, and I quite enjoyed it. The characters were likeable, with problems that any teenager could identify with. If I’d watched it while I was in high school, I probably would have loved it.

For some reason, when I read the book a few weeks ago, it fell flat. Was I too old for it? Maybe. I saw memorable scenes from the movie play out in my head as I read about them in the book. I saw the actors and the imagery. Stephen Chbosky, the author of the book, directed the movie, and I think that the casting was superb (except for Logan Lerman, who isn’t too believable as a “wallflower”). But for some reason, the characters as portrayed in the book aren’t quite as believable.

The best example of this is Sam. In the movie, she is portrayed by the delicately beautiful Emma Watson, the object of every discerning teenage boy’s desire these days. With her slightly unstable American accent, Emma Watson makes Sam more interesting than she is in the book. She is vulnerable but brave, and, like every other manic pixie dream girl, she encourages Charlie to actually live his life, instead of observing the others living theirs.

Much of the book is centered around Charlie’s obsession with Sam. Yet I couldn’t understand why. It’s repeatedly mentioned that she is beautiful. And that she is smart. And that she loves good music. And obviously she and Patrick introduce Charlie to a life of excitement, of friendship, that brings him out of his reclusive state. But other than that, I didn’t learn much about Sam. She had no other personality traits that I could discern. For me, she felt like any other insipid object of desire, and less interesting even than Mary Elizabeth.

I don’t want to discredit the book for its focus on weighty issues, especially abuse and neglect. Many of the characters suffer through abusive relationships, whether they are with family members or with a romantic partner. But the thing is, pretty much every character in Perks deals with abuse in some form. It’s so common in the book that I felt it was overdone and actually made the issue seem less serious. While I understand that the book was saying that this is a problem encountered by all sorts of people, I wish that there had been some variation in the characters’ troubles.

YES OR NO?: YES, but I’m personally ambivalent about this book. I feel like I may have appreciated it more at a younger age, although I believe books shouldn’t be bound to certain age groups. But for me, the book and its characters was lackluster compared to the movie.


7 thoughts on “Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

  1. Hey In Hye! I think we tend to favourite whatever version we come across first, because it’s really THAT telling of the story that makes us love the story in the first place. I had an interesting experience with Perks in that I was drawn to read the book after watching the movie trailer. I read the book and loved it. I then saw the movie and loved that too, but not as much as the book. One exception to this rule I’ve had is the Hunger Games. I thought the films did a better job telling the story than the books; indeed, as I was reading the books, I kept on thinking to myself, “The story is good, but the writing is dry…this would make an awesome movie though.”

    By the way, blog followed! (Long overdue) 😛

    – Charmaine

    1. Hey! Yes I do agree that the first thing we experience is usually our favourite, since that becomes established as the “true story” in our mind. I also felt the same way about The Hunger Games though. The writing is a bit dull.

  2. I agree with TK above. I didn’t watch the movie for Perks but I read the book and loved it. Since movie adaptations of books usually fall flat for me, I prefer to watch the movie before reading the story, if I can. That way, I can appreciate the movie and not be too biased.

  3. I read the book first and immediately fell in love. I quickly watched the movie after, and was very happy with it! I’m left to wonder if I would have appreciated the book to the same extent if I had seen the movie first. The plot twist in the book really helped me to better understand Charlie. I have to agree that whichever we experience first creates a lasting impression that we tend to favor. I feel like I always critique whichever I experience second much more harshly.

    Awesome review! I have followed you. I am also a book reviewer, though I’ve only just started!

    1. Hi Shannon, thanks for stopping by! I agree with what you said, I think what we experience second definitely tends to be judged more harshly. I will definitely stop by your blog 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s