Tuesday 2 July 2013

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Review: LGBTQ Themes in The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen ChboskyThe Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (review copy) - Charlie's not the biggest geek in high school, but he's by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent, yet socially awkward, Charlie is a wallflower, standing on the threshold of his life whilst watching everyone else live theirs.
As Charlie tries to navigate his way through unchartered territory - the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends - he realises he can't stay on the sidelines forever. There comes a time when you have to see what life looks like from the dance floor.
From the blurb.

I have already reviewed The Perks of Being a Wallflower generally, as I couldn't wait until now to discuss how beautiful it is, but I'm looking at it again for LGBTQ YA Month, with a focus on Patrick. This is going to be difficult because there are certain aspects of the story that could be very easily spoilt for readers by talking about the LGBTQ themes in Perks, but I'm going to try and cover the important aspects without spoilers - this review may be a little short.

Patrick is gay, but his sexuality is not a problem amongst his group of friends, and when Charlie finds out, it's not a problem to him either. What's awesome is that it doesn't even cross his mind that it should be a problem - Patrick might as well have been telling him that he liked eating cheese for as much impact it had on him. But it's not all plain sailing; his friends may not have a problem with him being gay, but that doesn't mean he is free from homophobic attacks while at school.

Chbosky also looks at the struggles with accepting who you are; boys wanting boys, but not wanting to want boys. Keeping things hidden and secret and in the dark. Worries about what other people will think, so living a lie in the open. Something is covered in Perks that could be considered quite controversial. I myself was quite shocked when I first read it, but why should the experiences of some people be left out because they're seen as taboo? Just because we don't talk about them, doesn't mean they don't happen. I thought it was awesome of Chbosky to cover this topic, because it just made the character's pain more real; this kind of thing happens, this is true to life, and this is how someone chooses to cope.

This is all seen second hand through Charlie's eyes, but Charlie is such a great character, that you're able to feel for the various characters effected through him, through what he's told and through how he thinks. At times your heart breaks, and at others you are so beyond disgusted and appalled. But the way Chbosky writes, it feels as though he's not writing about LGBTQ characters, experiences or themes, he's just writing about life. And he does it beautifully.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Children's Books for the review copy.

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Published: 30th August 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books
Originally published: 1999, by MTV
Buy on Amazon US
Stephen Chbosky's Author Page


  1. Great review Jo. Slightly spoilery comment ahead: I also found the Rocky Horror references in the text interesting, a film that is both embraced and controversial with regards to representing LGBTQ individuals. I loved how Chbosky showed queer and allied alike basically embracing the fun of the show as their own subculture rebellion, and how Charlie views the experience with both an outside looking in and inside looking out perspective. Chbosky writes so many brilliant and intricate layers of identity exploration within the text. Such a good book.

    1. Cheers, Charlie! I haven't seen nor really know the story of Rocky Horror, so it's not something I even thought to comment on. But it's an interesting point. I think I'll have to watch it now to get a better idea of the book :) It's an amazing book! One of my favourites, if not the #1! Thanks for commenting!