Stephen Chbosky’s novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower is told from the point of view of a teenager, Charlie, as he tries to understand his experiences in high school. Chbosky attempts to present an authentic portrayal of a young person’s voice and experiences, touching on difficult subjects such as teenage sexuality, suicide, and child abuse.
The novel is structured as a series of letters written by Charlie to an anonymous person. This format is known as an epistolary novel. The narrative is divided into four parts and ends with a short epilogue. The text features several examples of foreshadowing.
The main character is Charlie, a 15-year-old boy who is struggling to navigate high school after his best friend committed suicide. He makes friends with Patrick and his stepsister Sam. Charlie also explores his relationships with his parents, his brother and sister, and his Aunt Helen, whom he finally recognizes sexually abused him as a child.
The story takes place over the course of a single school year, from August 25, 1991, to August 23, 1992. The physical setting is a suburb of Pittsburgh, a town in America. Much of the story is set in and around Charlie’s high school, and touches on issues such as bullying, homophobia, social pressures to conform, and mental illness.
Charlie is the novel’s narrator, who writes a series of letters to an unknown recipient. His unique voice and perspective come across strongly and he spends a lot of time exploring his own feelings. He also interprets the feelings of the other characters, but he is not always correct. Charlie sometimes takes mind-altering drugs and represses the knowledge of his Aunt Helen sexually abusing him, which can lead to him occasionally being an unreliable narrator.
The language in the novel is generally conversational and informal. It includes words and phrases that might typically be used by a teenager. However, some of the phrasing is quite childlike, suggesting that Charlie is immature and lacks a full understanding of the world around him.