THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER
Published by: POCKET BOOKS, Simon and Schuster Inc.,
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
Copyright 1999 by Stephen Chbosky
BOOK JACKET INFORMATION
standing on the fringes of life ... offers a unique perspective. But
there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.
This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs.
passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in
contemporary fiction: The Perks Of Being A WALLFLOWER
This is the story of what it's like to grow up in high school.
More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters are singular and
unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he
lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is
the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and
trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through
uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes,
family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The
Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect
song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.
Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply
affecting coming-of-age story, powerful novel that will spirit you
back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as
visit us on the world wide web
stephen chbosky 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 the 1995 Sundance Film Festival and
went on to win Best Narrative Feature honors at the Chicago
Underground Film Festival. He is the recipient of the Abraham
Polonsky Screenwriting Award for his screenplay EVERYTHING
DIVIDED as well as a participant in the Sundance Institute's
filmmakers' lab for his current project, FINGERNAILS AND
SMOOTH SKIN. Chbosky lives in New York.
the perks of being a wallflower is his first novel.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and
incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used
fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or
persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
For my family
I just wanted to say about all those listed that there would be
no book without them, and I thank them with all of my heart.
Greer Kessel Hendricks Heather Neely Lea, Fred, and Stacy
Chbosky Robbie Thompson Christopher McQuarrie Margaret
Mehring Stewart Stern Kate Degenhart Mark McClain Wilson
David Wilcox Kate Ward Tim Perell Jack Horner Eduardo Braniff
And finally ...
Dr. Earl Reum for writing a beautiful poem and Patrick
Comeaux for remembering it wrong when he was 14.
THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER
August 25, 1991 Dear friend,
I am writing to you because she said you listen and
understand and didn't try to sleep with that person at that party
even though you could have. Please don't try to figure out who
she is because then you might figure out who I am, and I really
don't want you to do that. I will call people by different names or
generic names because I don't want you to find me. I didn't
enclose a return address for the same reason. I mean nothing bad
by this. Honest.
I just need to know that someone out there listens and
understands and doesn't try to sleep with people even if they could
have. I need to know that these people exist.
I think you of all people would understand that because I
think you of all people are alive and appreciate what that means.
At least I hope you do because other people look to you for
strength and friendship and it's that simple. At least that's what
So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both
happy and sad and I'm still trying to figure out how that could be.
I try to think of my family as a reason for me being this way,
especially after my friend Michael stopped going to school one day
last spring and we heard Mr. Vaughn's voice on the loudspeaker.
"Boys and girls, I regret to inform you that one of our students
has passed on. We will hold a memorial service for Michael
Dobson during assembly this Friday."
I don't know how news travels around school and why it is
very often right. Maybe it was in the lunchroom. It's hard to
remember. But Dave with the awkward glasses told us that
Michael killed himself. His mom played bridge with one of
Michael's neighbors and they heard the gunshot.
I don't really remember much of what happened after that
except that my older brother came to Mr. Vaughn's office in my
middle school and told me to stop crying. Then, he put his arm on
my shoulder and told me to get it out of my system before Dad
came home. We then went to eat french fries at McDonald's and
he taught me how to play pinball. He even made a joke that
because of me he got to skip an afternoon of school and asked me
if I wanted to help him work on his Camaro. I guess I was pretty
messy because he never let me work on his Camaro before.
At the guidance counselor sessions, they asked the few of us
who actually liked Michael to say a few words. I think they were
afraid that some of us would try to kill ourselves or something
because they looked very tense and one of them kept touching his
Bridget who is crazy said that sometimes she thought about
suicide when commercials come on during TV. She was sincere
and this puzzled the guidance counselors. Carl who is nice to
everyone said that he felt very sad, but could never kill himself
because it is a sin.
This one guidance counselor went through the whole group
and finally came to me.
"What do you think, Charlie?"
What was so strange about this was the fact that I had never
met this man because he was a "specialist" and he knew my name
even though I wasn't wearing a name tag like they do in open
"Well, I think that Michael was a nice guy and I don't
understand why he did it. As much as I feel sad, I think that not
knowing is what really bothers me."
I just reread that and it doesn't sound like how I talk.
Especially in that office because I was crying still. I never did
The counselor said that he suspected that Michael had
"problems at home" and didn't feel like he had anyone to talk to.
That's maybe why he felt all alone and killed himself.
Then, I started screaming at the guidance counselor that
Michael could have talked to me. And I started crying even
harder. He tried to calm me down by saying that he meant an
adult like a teacher or a guidance counselor. But it didn't work
and eventually my brother came by the middle school in his
Camaro to pick me up.
For the rest of the school year, the teachers treated me
different and gave me better grades even though I didn't get any
smarter. To tell you the truth, I think I made them all nervous.
Michael's funeral was strange because his father didn't cry.
And three months later he left Michael's mom. At least according
to Dave at lunchtime. I think about it sometimes. I wonder what
went on in Michael's house around dinner and TV shows.
Michael never left a note or at least his parents didn't let anyone
see it. Maybe it was "problems at home." I wish I knew. It might
make me miss him more clearly. It might have made sad sense.
One thing I do know is that it makes me wonder if I have
"problems at home" but it seems to me that a lot of other people
have it a lot worse. Like when my sister's first boyfriend started
going around with another girl and my sister cried for the whole
My dad said, "There are other people who have it a lot
And my mom was quiet. And that was that. A month later,
my sister met another boy and started playing happy records again.
And my dad kept working. And my mom kept sweeping. And
my brother kept fixing his Camaro. That is, until he left for
college at the beginning of the summer. He's playing football for
Penn State but he needed the summer to get his grades right to play
I don't think that there is a favorite kid in our family. There
are three of us and I am the youngest. My brother is the oldest.
He is a very good football player and likes his car. My sister is
very pretty and mean to boys and she is in the middle. I get
straight A's now like my sister and that is why they leave me alone.
My mom cries a lot during TV programs. My dad works a
lot and is an honest man. My Aunt Helen used to say that my dad
was going to be too proud to have a midlife crisis. It took me
until around now to understand what she meant by that because he
just turned forty and nothing has changed.
My Aunt Helen was my favorite person in the whole world.
She was my mom's sister. She got straight A's when she was a
teenager and she used to give me books to read. My father said
that the books were a little too old for me, but I liked them so he
just shrugged and let me read.
My Aunt Helen lived with the family for the last few years of
her life because something very bad happened to her. Nobody
would tell me what happened then even though I always wanted to
know. When I was around seven, I stopped asking about it
because I kept asking like kids always do and my Aunt Helen
started crying very hard.
That's when my dad slapped me, saying, "You're hurting your
aunt Helen's feelings!" I didn't want to do that, so I stopped. Aunt
Helen told my father not to hit me in front of her ever again and
my father said this was his house and he would do what he wanted
and my mom was quiet and so were my brother and sister.
I don't remember much more than that because I started
crying really hard and after a while my dad had my mom take me
to my room. It wasn't until much later that my mom had a few
glasses of white wine and told me what happened to her sister.
Some people really do have it a lot worse than I do. They really
I should probably go to sleep now. It's very late. I don't
know why I wrote a lot of this down for you to read. The reason I
wrote this letter is because I start high school tomorrow and I am
really afraid of going.
September 7, 1991 Dear friend,
I do not like high school. The cafeteria is called the
"Nutrition Center," which is strange. There is this one girl in my
advanced english class named Susan. In middle school, Susan
was very fun to be around. She liked movies, and her brother
Frank made her tapes of this great music that she shared with us.
But over the summer she had her braces taken off, and she got a
little taller and prettier and grew breasts. Now, she acts a lot
dumber in the hallways, especially when boys are around. And I
think it's sad because Susan doesn't look as happy. To tell you the
truth, she doesn't like to admit she's in the advanced english class,
and she doesn't like to say "hi" to me in the hall anymore.
When Susan was at the guidance counselor meeting about
Michael, she said that Michael once told her that she was the
prettiest girl in the whole world, braces and all. Then, he asked
her to "go with him," which was a big deal at any school. They
call it "going out" in high school. And they kissed and talked
about movies, and she missed him terribly because he was her best
It's funny, too, because boys and girls normally weren't best
friends around my school. But Michael and Susan were. Kind of
like my Aunt Helen and me. I'm sorry. "My Aunt Helen and I."
That's one thing I learned this week. That and more consistent
I keep quiet most of the time, and only one kid named Sean
really seemed to notice me. He waited for me after gym class and
said really immature things like how he was going to give me a
"swirlie," which is where someone sticks your head in the toilet
and flushes to make your hair swirl around. He seemed pretty
unhappy as well, and I told him so. Then, he got mad and started
hitting me, and I just did the things my brother taught me to do.
My brother is a very good fighter.
"Go for the knees, throat, and eyes."
And I did. And I really hurt Sean. And then I started
crying. And my sister had to leave her senior honors class and
drive me home. I got called to Mr. Small's office, but I didn't get
suspended or anything because a kid told Mr. Small the truth
about the fight.
"Sean started it. It was self-defense."
And it was. I just don't understand why Sean wanted to hurt
me. I didn't do anything to him. I am very small. That's true.
But I guess Sean didn't know I could fight. The truth is I could
have hurt him a lot worse. And maybe I should have. I thought I
might have to if he came after the kid who told Mr. Small the
truth, but Sean never did go after him. So, everything was
Some kids look at me strange in the hallways because I don't
decorate my locker, and I'm the one who beat up Sean and couldn't
stop crying after he did it. I guess I'm pretty emotional.
It has been very lonely because my sister is busy being the
oldest one in our family. My brother is busy being a football
player at Penn State. After the training camp, his coach said that
he was second string and that when he starts learning the system,
he will be first string.
My dad really hopes he will make it to the pros and play for
the Steelers. My mom is just glad he gets to go to college for free
because my sister doesn't play football, and there wouldn't be
enough money to send both of them. That's why she wants me to
keep working hard, so I'll get an academic scholarship.
So, that's what I'm doing until I meet a friend here. I was
hoping that the kid who told the truth could become a friend of
mine, but I think he was just being a good guy by telling.
September 11, 1991 Dear friend,
I don't have a lot of time because my advanced english
teacher assigned us a book to read, and I like to read books twice.
Incidentally, the book is To Kill a Mockingbird. If you haven't
read it, I think you should because it is very interesting. The
teacher has assigned us a few chapters at a time, but I do not like to
read books like that. I am halfway through the first time.
Anyway, the reason I am writing to you is because I saw my
brother on television. I normally don't like sports too much, but
this was a special occasion. My mother started crying, and my
father put his arm around her shoulder, and my sister smiled,
which is funny because my brother and sister always fight when
But my older brother was on television, and so far, it has been
the highlight of my two weeks in high school. I miss him terribly,
which is strange, because we never really talked much when he
was here. We still don't talk, to be honest.
I would tell you his position, but like I said, I would like to be
anonymous to you. I hope you understand.
September 16, 1991 Dear friend,
I have finished To Kill a Mockingbird. It is now my favorite
book of all time, but then again, I always think that until I read
another book. My advanced english teacher asked me to call him
"Bill" when we're not in class, and he gave me another book to
read. He says that I have a great skill at reading and
understanding language, and he wanted me to write an essay about
To Kill a Mockingbird.
I mentioned this to my mom, and she asked why Bill didn't
recommend that I just take a sophomore or junior english class.
And I told her that Bill said that these were basically the same
classes with more complicated books, and that it wouldn't help me.
My mom said that she wasn't sure and would talk to him during
open house. Then, she asked me to help her by washing the
dishes, which I did.
Honestly, I don't like doing dishes. I like eating with my
fingers and off napkins, but my sister says that doing so is bad for
the environment. She is a part of the Earth Day Club here in high
school, and that is where she meets the boys. They are all very
nice to her, and I don't really understand why except maybe the
fact that she is pretty. She really is mean to these boys.
One boy has it particularly hard. I won't tell you his name.
But I will tell you all about him. He has very nice brown hair, and
he wears it long with a ponytail. I think he will regret this when
he looks back on his life. He is always making mix tapes for my
sister with very specific themes. One was called "Autumn
Leaves." He included many songs by the Smiths. He even
hand-colored the cover. After the movie he rented was over, and
he left, my sister gave me the tape.
"Do you want this, Charlie?"
I took the tape, but I felt weird about it because he had made
it for her. But I listened to it. And loved it very much. There is
one song called "Asleep" that I would like you to listen to. I told
my sister about it. And a week later she thanked me because
when this boy asked her about the tape, she said exactly what I said
about the song "Asleep," and this boy was very moved by how
much it meant to her. I hope this means I will be good at dating
when the time comes.
I should stick to the subject, though. That is what my teacher
Bill tells me to do because I write kind of the way I talk. I think
that is why he wants me to write that essay about To Kill a
This boy who likes my sister is always respectful to my
parents. My mom likes him very much because of this. My dad
thinks he's soft. I think that's why my sister does what she does to
This one night, she was saying very mean things about how
he didn't stand up to the class bully when he was fifteen or
something like that. To tell you the truth, I was just watching the
movie he had rented, so I wasn't paying very close attention to
their fight. They fight all the time, so I figured that the movie was
at least something different, which it wasn't because it was a
Anyway, after she leaned into him for about four movie
scenes, which I guess is about ten minutes or so, he started crying.
Crying very hard. Then, I turned around, and my sister pointed at
"You see. Even Charlie stood up to his bully. You see."
And this guy got really red-faced. And he looked at me.
Then, he looked at her. And he wound up and hit her hard across
the face. I mean hard. I just froze because I couldn't believe he
did it. It was not like him at all to hit anybody. He was the boy
that made mix tapes with themes and hand-colored covers until he
hit my sister and stopped crying.
The weird part is that my sister didn't do anything. She just
looked at him very quietly. It was so weird. My sister goes crazy
if you eat the wrong kind of tuna, but here was this guy hitting her,
and she didn't say anything. She just got soft and nice. And she
asked me to leave, which I did. After the boy had left, she said
that they were "going out" and not to tell mom or dad what
I guess he stood up to his bully. And I guess that makes
That weekend, my sister spent a lot of time with this boy.
And they laughed a lot more than they usually did. On Friday
night, I was reading my new book, but my brain got tired, so I
decided to watch some television instead. And I opened the door
to the basement, and my sister and this boy were naked.
He was on top of her, and her legs were draped over either
side of the couch. And she screamed at me in a whisper.
"Get out. You pervert."
So, I left. The next day, we all watched my brother play
football. And my sister invited this boy over. I am not sure when
he left the previous night. They held hands and acted like
everything was happy. And this boy said something about how
the football team hasn't been the same since my brother graduated,
and my dad thanked him. And when the boy left, my dad said that
this boy was becoming a fine young man who could carry himself.
And my mom was quiet. And my sister looked at me to make
sure I wouldn't say anything. And that was that.
"Yes. He is." That's all my sister could say. And I could see
this boy at home doing his homework and thinking about my sister
naked. And I could see them holding hands at football games that
they do not watch. And I could see this boy throwing up in the
bushes at a party house. And I could see my sister putting up with
And I felt very bad for both of them.
September 18, 1991 Dear friend,
I never told you that I am in shop class, did I? Well, I am in
shop class, and it is my favorite class next to Bill's advanced
english class. I wrote the essay for To Kill a Mockingbird last
night, and I handed it in to Bill this morning. We are supposed to
talk about it tomorrow during lunch period.