Dear friend,

Dear friend, I found an old stack of letters the other day. Each was addressed the same way that this letter started and each ended with the phrase, “Love always, Charlie.” These letters, by Charlie, detail his first year as a freshman in the early nineties. Charlie is having a difficult time. He is a bit of an introvert and has suffered some significant personal losses recently, which have affected him. His best friend…well… his best friend took his own life. His favorite Aunt, the one who he felt understood him the most, she too, passed away.

Life for Charlie is not all bad. Charlie befriends Sam and Patrick, two seniors at his new school who are brother and sister. These two take him under their wing and Charlie feels something that he hasn’t felt in a long time, acceptance. He also starts to feel something new, something different. Charlie falls for Sam in a big way and he struggles constantly with these feelings for his friend.Perksofbeingwallflower1

Charlie doesn’t struggle with finding a place within this group of fast friends that come with Sam and Patrick. He defines his role within the larger group as being, more or less, a witness to the events that surround him rather than a participant. He is more than happy to just watch the group and when he watches he sees what no one else sees. His bystander attitude is what makes him part of the group. “(He) sees things. (He) keep(s) quiet about them. And (he) understand(s).” And thus are The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

The world that Charlie lives in is very different than our own. In the early nineties, there were no cell-phones, no computers, no Facebook, at least not like there is today. Instead there are diners and mix-tapes. There are friends who stop by unannounced because they need someone to talk to; there is no texting to find out if someone is home or not. Experiences were shared in person, not over a screen, not with a thumbs-up button. Charlie lived in a time where personal interactions defined a relationship, if Charlie were born ten years later, would he have found the strength to find friends, real friends? Would he have written these letters? Or would he have just written a blog post while listening to the Smiths

Charlie’s world is filled with people who care and love him in different ways. And the people around Charlie are going through their own struggles of understanding what love really is. Love is never something set in stone, it is something that grows and evolves and shifts. So if love is always in flux, then how do we accept the love that we think we deserve? Thanks Charlie. 12342 -MAS2015

The Perks of Being a Wallflower- Chbosky, Stephen

Student Choice book to present for ABR.

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7 thoughts on “Dear friend,

  1. Thanks for this review, MAS. It is really well written, and it gave me a real sense of the story. I especially appreciate your interpretation of the novel’s title. You quoted: “[He] sees things. [He] keep[s] quiet about them. And [he] understand[s],” then wrote: “And thus are The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”
    The idea that “[seeing] things” and “[keeping] quiet about them” might help one better understand those things is an intriguing one – one that might garner much discussion in a classroom. While some students might relate to Charlie’s subtle, introspective nature, others might learn from it. They might learn about the perks of this type of behavior and adopt some aspects of it, or they might at least learn about the perspectives of wallflower-type individuals.
    Thanks again for your review, MAS; it was insightful.

    -SD

    • Thanks SD! I really have embraced this idea of trying to do a blog post that is intriguing and doesn’t spoil anything for the reader at the same time. I don’t think I have enough assignments to get really creative, so when an assignment like this pops up, I try my hardest to make sure it gets the job done, but in a fun way. I’m glad you responded to this and I hope it encourages you to pick up the book. I think it would make a great Literature Circle book for freshman.

      -MAS2015

  2. Excellent review, MAS! I have read this book several times and love it a little bit more with every read. I like that you brought up the question of how Charlie might fit into today’s society, specifically in terms of the technology- laden world that we live in. Would texting and Facebook have made Charlie feel more isolated that he already felt…or….might online chatting or texts be a way for him to reveal more of his feelings, being that it is much harder to talk about intimate issues (specifically abuse) in person? While our one-on-one interactions in present society are more scarce than what it was like in the nineties, some people find it easier to communicate how they (truly) feel when not confronted face to face. Perhaps Charlie might have found a support group online, or opened up to a potential lover on an internet dating site? There are a plethora of discussion topics/activities waiting to be discovered here if you ever choose to teach this book!
    –VM

    • Thanks for bringing up the technology part of my blog, I was really worried that it might be a little too much “you dang kids, get off my lawn”. But I think it is a solid point, would Charlie get out there and meet anyone? You can literally be a wall-flower now by looking at someone else’s Facebook wall. I like what you are saying about how someone can post without being face-to-face, but I think that might lead to a certain amount of anonymity that might not be as productive in a classroom. Rereading your post does make me think that if there were kids like Charlie in the 90’s, then there are kids like him in today’s classrooms.

      -MAS2015

  3. MAS, I have heard so much about this book and now I’m about to buy it in two seconds on amazon!!! This sounds like an amazing read! What I enjoyed most about your post is this idea of technology and real friends. I think that you bring up an excellent and very important point about technology. What would the world be like without it? I posted a sign that reads “NO WiFi, TALK TO EACH OTHER! CALL YOUR MOM! PRETEND ITS 1993! LIVE!” in my kitchen at home and ironically everyone respects it but only in the kitchen. It makes you really wonder how mentally and emotionally attached we are to technology in a sickening way. I really love how this book contrasts what we see so much of today and yet there are similarities too. At one point in our teaching careers, we meet kids who are our “wallflowers” . I love this idea it is fascinating that people can watch and not contribute or, for some, even speak about it. I look forward to reading this book as well as sharing it with my students! Thanks MAS!

    -DML

  4. MAS, I love that you bring up the differences between “then” and now and what the world was like before the thumbs up button. Recently one of my students wrote a paper about the fact that technology today, Facebook specifically, makes people feel more lonely than people felt before Facebook when you could drop by a friend’s house without texting them first to see if they were around. What is it, exactly, about technology that makes us able to connect with so many people yet leaves us in a strange circle of isolation? Your review of The Perks of Being a Wallflower really emphasizes a time when teenagers were right in the middle of the pre- and post- internet age, when there were still teenage wallflowers in the world and not the multitude of teenage recluses that we have today.

    ~ Naptharoe

  5. I agree, great review. I really enjoyed reading this book. I had been craving a good contemporary novel for awhile since I think they are hard to find. One of my favorite moments that made me go “Omg yes I know exactly what you mean, I do that too!” is when Charlie writes about how he thinks so much to the point of disillusion and madness, and looking at your own existence in a subjective way to the point of almost insanity. I’ve had those moments where I look in the mirror and say, “Holy crap I exist” and then all of what I have ever been or experienced feels really really weird.

    MM

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