Book Club Perks of Being a Wallflower
Charlie is a shy and introspective teenage boy, a wallflower always standing on the edge of the action. We learn about him through the letters he writes to someone of an undisclosed name, age and gender, a stylistic technique which adds to the heart-wrenching earnestness of the story. More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating.
Charlie encounters many of the struggles familiar to everybody from their school days, from making friends, first crushes, experimenting with drugs and sexuality, but he must also deal with his best friend's suicide and a shocking realisation about his beloved late Aunt Helen which challenges his very grip on reality. This is a funny, touching, memorable first novel which captures with resounding accuracy the voice of a boy teetering on the brink of adulthood.
Stephen Chobsky grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and graduated from the University of Southern California's Filmic Writing Program. His first film, The Four Corners of Nowhere, premiered at Sundance Film Festival and went on to win Best Narrative Feature honors at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. He helped edit and contributed material to John Leguizamo's Broadway show, sexaholix. He also edited Pieces, a collection of short stories for Pocket Books. Most recently, he wrote the screenplay for the critically acclaimed film adaptation of Rent. He also co-created and served as executive producer of the post-apocalyptic drama, Jericho, which found a place in television history when its cancellation prompted fans to send over 40,000 pounds of nuts to the network in protest. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is his first novel. As well as being an author, Stephen Chobsky is a film director and screenwriter. He lives in Los Angeles.
Perks of Being a Wallflower
Simon and Schuster
Author: Stephen Chobsky
Question: What are your overall thoughts on Perks of Being a Wallflower?
Jessica: It was an easy read!
Brooke: Yes, very easy I read it in a couple of days; I really liked it, I enjoyed the way it was written and as a young teenager I remember really enjoying books that were written in a diary or letter format. I loved every bit about the book especially that the character was able to observe and honestly explain what was going on, around him.
Jessica: I wasn't sure about the character, I thought he may have been autistic at first but that may have been because this book followed Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and I felt like it was the same character, five years on.
Emma: It was odd and I thought the same thing due to his thought process.
Katya: I believed from the beginning, that the boy, Charlie had depression and a psychological disorder similar to anxiety which is evident in the way he continually cried and repeated certain characteristics to show he was -freaking out' as he was in a psychosis. I found it highly interesting to see his perspective of the world and how he interacted with other people. I also was intrigued by, at that time, as the book was set in the 1990's, how the two friends took him on.
Jessica: In terms of Charlie watching what was going on, as a wallflower, I really liked the scene at the after-party of the Prom where he would choose the music according to what he saw happening at the party – I thought that scene was a really nice way of showing his ability to observe and how content he was.
Question: How were the characters of Sam and Patrick relevant?
Brooke: I found it almost hard to believe that they were brother and sister because of how close they were. I enjoyed that Charlie told it, exactly how it was with the both of them.
Emma: They were step brother and sister. I did find it slightly weird that Sam always laughed at Charlie and his characteristics.
Katya: It was about the way the characters wanted to be perceived; they enjoyed being a little bit strange. The drugs really changed their thoughts and perceptions though, they were doing so many drugs and that was why Sam always laughed and had that -whatever' approach to life; I guess it's the era which also reminded me of The Runaways film where they spent most of their life in a trance.
Emma: I felt that some of the scenes where he spoke about his past were strange especially when he described what happened in his room, when his brother threw a party and how he just sat there and watched.
Katya: All of that correlates to his fear and past experiences with his Aunty.
Jessica: He definitely grew up with issues of anxiety and was unable to cope with that. The story begins strong with his only friend committing suicide and I think that was the turning point in his life because from that point on he was on his own, at school with no friends.
Brooke: As a -wallflower' I did find it weird that he hadn't picked up that his friend was upset and depressed whilst also being unsure of why he committed suicide.
Katya: In the end he did, he thought back and realised. I enjoyed how he reflected on his family and the times they'd spent together, especially when he recalled his father crying at an episode of M.A.S.H. I found that the mother was committed to the family and the father didn't want to be involved as the mother regularly asked 'you're okay now, aren't you?"
Question: What do you think the Perks of Being a Wallflower is trying to say?
Brooke: I found it hard to relate to his adolescent life in terms of the drug use.
Emma: I couldn't relate either.
Jessica: No, and why did they reenact Rocky Horror Picture Show every weekend?
Brooke: Yes, every week! Although I think that is common in America, they show the production often and the audiences dresses up, it's not something we commonly do in Victoria, even though I am a huge fan of the stage show and film.
Katya: I liked his relationship with literature and in turn that with the English teacher.
Brooke: I wanted to know more about what he thought about the great literature he was reading including The Great Gatsby, but that isn't a negative to the text, I honestly wanted to know!
Jessica: Yes, but that relates to what Katya has said about his personality and the fact he is suffering from a mental illness. He couldn't emotionally connect with the books he was reading, actually he couldn't emotionally connect with a lot of things – I think he wanted too but he couldn't and I think that often resulted in tears.
Emma: I believe that relates to the abuse because he was detached from everything. In saying that he was meant to be detached, due to the purpose of being a -wallflower' and viewing life without necessarily being involved.
Katya: Yes and no; so much of the time he would say 'this is meant to happen" and that is why he wouldn't react when people expected him to do things, he didn't want to do. Even though he struggled to emotionally connect he often would say things that were so profound and I was shocked. I especially enjoyed the English teacher's line 'Charlie, we accept the love we think we deserve" and I believe it was highly effective in the book not just for his sister but for all the characters (Sam, Patrick, his sister, the parents, his Aunt) especially Charlie because I felt as if he didn't think he deserved love and that is why he repealed it, almost.
Charlie wrote his experiences from a distance, he wasn't highly involved and because of that his thoughts were neutral; if he was more involved in life he wouldn't be able to write an honest perception of what was happening around him.
Jessica: He was involved when he needed to be, especially when his sister needed help, he drove her to the clinic and looked after her and that meant they were able to have a moment.
Question: What do you think about the upcoming film adaptation?
Jessica: I had really high hopes for the book, Perks of Being a Wallflower, because it is being made into a film. I watched the trailer and was surprised that Emma Watson is cast as Sam. I'm not sure how I feel about the trailer...
Katya: Stephen Chobsky, the author is also the director and he wrote the screen-play. Perks of Being a Wallflower is his first book (which of course has become a phenomenon) although he has previously directed commercials and music videos. I believe the actors chosen to play Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Charlie (Logan Lerman) are both good choices.
Brooke: After watching the trailer I think that they may have tried to modernise the text into a -High School Drama'.
Jessica: Yes, it looks as if it may be a teen film and I feel that the text is a lot deeper than that as the characters have a lot more complexity which is why it may work better as a book than a film.
Emma: I agree.
Question: What did you think about the ending?
Katya: Very sudden, too sudden.
Brooke: I didn't want it to finish…
Jessica: I found it a little bit depressing… It felt as if it was winding up to be all okay and he didn't need to write letters although he still said that even though things weren't good, they would be soon enough. It made me think: would things ever be particularly good for him?
Question: Would you recommend Perks of Being a Wallflower?
Brooke: Yes, I enjoyed it, it was easy to become involved in the story and I often didn't want to put it down, I found myself saying 'one more letter".
Jessica: Yes, I thought it was good; I took it on holidays with me and found it very easy to pick up and be able to read a couple of letters. The way the character grew throughout the year was well done and his progress was evident. I really enjoyed the poem, it was really powerful and it was interesting how he didn't understand what it meant at the time and then later on when he was really depressed he stated 'For the first time, in my life, I understand the end of the poem and I never wanted to, you have to believe me".
Emma: I enjoyed the book.
Katya: I was really into the book, when I started reading. The line 'and in that moment we were infinite" stuck with me.