The Perks of Being a Wallflower starts out crap. Pure crap. Who is this Charlie kid? To whom is he writing? And why is he such a complete idiot? Dear random kid I don't know, guess what I discovered yesterday? Masturbation! You know how many times I did it? Let me tell you the details. By the way, I'm in High School. Right. No common sense, no filter: that's our Charlie. It's no wonder readers want to diagnosis him.
So at first I thought I was just reading a more juvenile version of Silver Linings Playbook. That book starts out crap. And it ends crap. The Perks... was following the same formula: simple language, repetition, repetition, naivety, etc. I mean, think about it, how many of the scenes in one novel can be translated to the other: the romantic relationships, the familial relationships, the fight. By the end of The Perks... I realized I was actually reading a more mature version of Silver Lining Playbook (at this moment, I'm wondering why I gave that book three stars—I must've been having a good day).
Back to The Perks...: I found the voice to be disingenuous; not so much at the end, as Charlie was just beginning to make sense to me (some), but for much of the first two-thirds of the novel. There were little bits of authorial manipulation in there that left a bad taste in my mouth. And then to paint Charlie as some kind of genius... it makes no sense. When did the reader get a glimpse of Charlie being brilliant? Unique? Sure. Special? Uh huh. What teacher Bill saw in him I have no idea.
I think readers tend to filter books like this through their own experiences. That's probably why most people either love or hate it. Here's my experience: I was a little different. I listened to different music, dressed differently, and was socially awkward. The result of my differences was I got the shit beat out of me and was taunted nonstop. I don't know where Charlie lives, but he's got it pretty good. Compared to him, I think I was fairly normal. And somehow he makes friends—sure they're a little weird, but they're popular in their own ways. He goes to parties and kisses girls and smiles and gets straight As. Hooray, Charlie! But I call bullshit. Kids, this is how Charlie's High School experience really was: his only friends were a boy who'd do anything to get a laugh (drink formaldehyde, wear underwear on his head) and a kid who brought a knife to school for protection; he spent much of his time looking over his shoulder and ignoring the taunts of “faggot;” he was tripped; he had his head slammed into his locker; he was invited to two parties: a birthday party where only Formaldehyde-boy and Knife-boy came and a Doctor Who party where Kool-Aid was on tap; his teachers saw nothing special about him because his grades were crap because he was too exhausted. He lived in fear of everything. And in the end, he A) graduated high school without a thought, spending the following decade trying to forget, B) went on a killing spree, or C) killed himself. These “letters” to his friend are merely the delusional ramblings of someone suffering from Post High School Traumatic Disorder. Am I making this personal?
In the end, the book's not that bad, I guess. The story's alright, especially for YA. The plot is overly manipulated, but it kind of works. It's just in no way believable. Maybe it would've made more sense had it been shelved in the Fantasy section.