The book was written by Stephen Chbosky, an American novelist in 1999. Chbosky also directed the film which came out in 2012.
The story line is about a coming of age boy named Charlie, whom narrates his life with letters he writes to someone not known personally. It is about Charlie being a wallflower, which is described in the book as “You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.” Charlie has a different way of thinking, and the book itself is quite taboo as it talks about a lot of emotions and thoughts that you wouldn’t say out loud.
The book itself talks about many different problems that most teenagers have faced in their lives, such as; popularity, not fitting in, love, depression, abuse, sexuality, drugs and finding yourself.
The story starts when you find out Charlies friend Michael killed himself, and Charlie feels he cannot relate to his parents as they don’t understand him. And the only member of family he felt close to was his Aunt Helen who was killed in a car accident when he was seven. By the end of the film you find out his aunt was the root cause of Charlie being mentally unwell, however in the book it doesn’t clearly state that.
It is Charlie’s first year of high school, his brother has just moved to university and his sister doesn’t pay him a lot of attention, Charlie is alone and as his best friend killed himself, he doesn’t have anyone to talk to. But when he goes into his English Lesson he finds a friend in his teacher, Bill whom gives Charlie books to read. Charlie finds it easier to read books as he is very quiet and doesn’t involve himself in social situations. When Charlie befriends Patrick and Sam, whom are both seniors, he feels accepted.
The book then goes on to tell you about all the stories they have, the conversations and even the little details, as these are the things that matter when growing up. Charlie starts to fall for Sam, and becomes best friends with Patrick. Although Charlie has deep feelings for Sam he ends up going out with Mary Elizabeth, another girl in their group. In his letters Charlie also talks about the unhealthy relationships surrounding him, his sister’s boyfriend hits her, as did his Aunt Helens boyfriends, and Patricks secret relationship with Brad, as Brad is popular and ashamed to admit he is gay. A quote that seems to sum up a lot of the unhealthy relationships is “We accept the love we think we deserve.”
The events of Charlie’s life are realistic, going from up and down. In the beginning, when he first starts to talk to Sam and Patrick they go through the tunnel listening to David Bowies song Heroes , describing the moment as “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.” When he is going out with Mary Elizabeth, there is one drunken night where they play truth or dare, Charlie is dared to kiss the prettiest girl in the room, he chooses Sam, and it immediately ends his relationship with Mary Elizabeth. Patrick tells him to stay away until everything is okay again. This leaves Charlie where he started, a social recluse. When Patrick and Brad have a fight in the middle of school, Charlie steps in and blacks out and finds five people lying on the floor. Brads dad finds Patrick and him together and beats Brad up, at school Brad then calls Patrick a faggot to try and hide what happened, which is why the fight starts. Charlie is then accepted back into the group. In between this Charlie becomes addicted to cannabis and takes LSD, which ends up with him in hospital after he is found by police lying in the snow at 6am. This triggers his mum and dad to think he is “not well” again. Nobody in the book uses the word depression to describe it.
By the end of the story Charlie realizes all his friends are leaving to go university. And he will be alone again, the last night they are all together Charlie and Sam are left alone in her room, they start kissing and Sam touches him, as this happens a flash back of his Aunt Helen touching him occurs and he pushes Sam away. They spend the night together and say their goodbyes in the morning. Once Sam leaves Charlie start to get bad again, he goes home and his parents find him naked in the front room oblivious of what is around him. Charlie is then transferred back into hospital to see a psychiatrist, and Charlie reveals to her that his Aunt Helen molested him, she is the only person he has told, and she then tells his parents about this and explains why this is probably why Charlie is not well.
Whilst in hospital Charlie gets visited by the other characters in the book that have influenced him such as Sam, Patrick, Mary Elizabeth, his family and others. The end scene is of Charlie, discharged from hospital driving in Sam’s pickup truck with her and Patrick. They go through the infamous tunnel they drive through, portraying that you should live in the moment and enjoy it whilst it’s there and not to worry about the future. The moral of the story is that it’s okay to be different, and not to take life or people too literally, filter things to suit yourself not to please everyone else. Charlie ends his letters with “please believe that things are good with me, and even when they’re not, they will be soon enough. And I will always believe the same about you.” Charlie accepts the fact that things change, friends leave and life doesn’t stop for anybody.
The book has become a modern classic, for people from all different backgrounds to relate to. And I believe this is one of the most inspirational books written.