- For the film of the same name, see The Perks of Being a Wallflower (film).
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an epistolary novel written by American author Stephen Chbosky. It was published on February 1, 1999 by MTV.
The story explores topics such as introversion and the awkward times of adolescence. The book also touches briefly on drug use and Charlie's experiences with this. As the story progresses, various works of literature and film are referenced and their meanings discussed.
The story takes place in a suburb of Pittsburgh during the 1991–1992 school year, when Charlie is a high school freshman. Charlie is the titular wallflower of the novel. He is an unconventional thinker, and as the story begins he is shy and unpopular.
The book was third on the American Library Association's list of the top ten most frequently challenged books of 2009, for reasons including the book's treatment of drugs, homosexuality, sex, and suicide.
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. At the end of the book, Sam and Charlie almost have a sexual encounter, but do not when Charlie says he is not ready. During this encounter, Charlie has a flashback of his Aunt Helen, who molested him when he was younger. When Sam leaves for school, Charlie has a breakdown. The final letter is written after he is released from the hospital after several months after finally coming to terms with everything and preparing for his sophomore year of high school. At the beginning of the book, Charlie is referred to as a wallflower for his ability to observe and understand things, but over the course of a year's worth of letters, Charlie explains the efforts of the people in his life to get him to "participate" or "do things" and the feelings and experiences he has as a result.
- Charlie: The main character who writes to his anonymous recipient, and the narrator of the story.
- Charlie's Mom
- Charlies' Dad
- Aunt Helen: Charlie's aunt, who he considers his "favorite person in the world" but who Charlie later realizes molested him when he was younger.
- Charlie's sister: Charlie's older sister who tries not to be noticed in his company because it could ruin her popularity.
- Charlie's brother: Star athlete who goes off to college at the beginning of the book and to whom Charlie is always compared.
- Michael: Charlie's best friend throughout school until he committed suicide.
- Patrick: Charlie's best friend who helps him find himself through the novel, by encouraging him to be himself, along with his stepsister Sam.
- Sam: Patrick's stepsister who is also friends with Charlie and who also encourages him to do what he can to be himself. Sam is also Charlie's main love interest.
- Bill: Charlie's English teacher and role model who helps him escape from the real world through books that change Charlie's life. He sees a lot of himself in Charlie.
- Main article: Charlie's Lists