This book is about a teenager named Charlie who is about to start his first day of high school after dealing with the suicide of his only and closest friend. To deal with the anxiety, Charlie begins to write letters to a stranger his heard is nice and can trust. He meets two friends named Patrick and Sam who later become his best friends. Throughout his high school year, he has been taken under the wing of a great senior group. He experiences many firsts like his first love, kiss, girlfriend and his first party. By making a mistake Charlie is put in an awkward position. He loses all his friend but is able to gain back their love and trust. His friends are then sent off to college. Charlie is then hospitalized from a serve mental breakdown after discovering a family secret his kept repressed.
Charlie is the protagonist of this story. As a child Charlie went through a lot. At a young age he lost his aunt who he was very close with. He was molested by his aunt which was discovered later on in the book. Before starting high school his best friend committed suicide. Charlie currently suffers from Post Traumatic stress (PTSD) leading him to also have depression and social anxiety. Charlie is socially awkward, shy, caring, smart, trustful, innocent and an introvert.
Patrick is one of the other main characters of the story. He is a high school senior who is very approachable, has a great sense of humor, outgoing, homosexual, goofy and lighthearted. Patrick is referred to as ‘Nothing’ by other teenagers in the school but despises being called that.
Sam is also a high school senior. She is Patrick’s step sister who is kind, rebellious, spontaneous and free spirited. In the past she has had a bad reputation with men. When she was a child, she was even raped by one of her father’s friends.
Charlie at the start of the book was innocent, socially awkward, very shy, reserved, passive and was always the bystander. Charlie started off as a wallflower. A wallflower is a person who is typically isn’t fond over attention, would be called shy and wouldn’t join in on dances or parties. By the end of the Charlie matures emotionally, physically, and sexually. Throughout the book he begins to become less innocent. His more open, leading him to be less shy and reserved. He started out as a bystander then became someone who stands up for others. Strong relationships to him and rite of passages have changed and matured him.
Relationships can always have a strong effect on people in both a bad or good way and you may not even be able to notice.
Four of the strongest relationships Charlie has are with Patrick, his best friend. Sam, who is the love of his life. Mr. Anderson also known as “Bill” who is Charlie’s teacher and acts as a mentor to him is. Then lastly, his aunt Helen.
With Patrick having such a strong relationship with Charlie he was able to come out of his shadow and make a difference. Charlie use to be a bystander, he once watched a girl get rapped and did nothing about it. Then when he witnessed his best friend getting beaten up, instead of watching he chose to defend him. Charlie said in chapter four ‘I just couldn’t watch them hurt Patrick even if things weren’t clear just yet.’ Not only did Charlie finally stand up for once but even having Patrick as a friend has had an impact on him. Patrick was the first person to be nice to Charlie when he first came to school and become his first friend. You’re first friend in high school is someone you never forget. Along with your first love, which Sam was to Charlie. Charlie felt a connection with Sam since the day he met her. Even after a month of knowing her he knew he loved her. In chapter two Charlie said ‘I love Sam. It’s not a movie kind of love either. I just look at her sometimes, and I think she is the prettiest and nicest person in the world.’ Sam being Charlie’s first love was important to him because he discovered emotions he didn’t know he was capable of having. Mr. Anderson motivated Charlie to get out and do more and always encouraged him to participate, both in school and outside of school. From the very beginning Mr. Anderson knew Charlie was a very talented student with a lot of potential. He suggested to Charlie to go the football game and other social events. If Charlie had never listened to Mr. Anderson, he would have never met his two best friends Patrick and Sam. In chapter three Charlie stated that Mr. Anderson has made him feel like a grown up. When you start to feel like a grown up that means you’re one step closer to truly being one. Mr. Anderson allowing Charlie to feel that way, emotionally changed him and how he sees himself.
Aunt Helen has always been very close with Charlie as his not as close with his other family members. The day Charlie turned seven his Aunt Helen went to buy him a second gift. Later that night it was discovered she was in a car crash and died. Throughout the book Charlie refers back to Aunt Helen many times and how much he loved her. Being fifteen now he still carries the guilt of his aunt, feeling responsible for her death. After almost having a sexual encounter with Sam he pulls away not knowing why. Then he soon remembers the moments of his Aunt Helen molesting him after having it repressed from his mind. This was an overwhelming emotional moment for Charlie when realizing what his aunt had been doing to him. It’s a massive burden on his shoulders he must live with forever. This moment also taught him forgiveness. He stated in chapter four he forgave his aunt because he knew she was emotionally traumatized.
Rite of passages
A rite of passage is an important event or moment that has happened in your life. These passages are what lead you towards adulthood. In this coming of age novel Charlie is in high school where he experiences many rites of passages. He has his first day of high school, first kiss, first love, first ‘I love you’ (other than family), first date, first girlfriend, first physical fight, first time driving, first party, first time drinking and trying drugs. All of these occurred within only one year and no matter the child they can have a huge impact on anyone especially an innocent and shy teenager like Charlie.
‘I start high school tomorrow and I am really afraid of going.’ Said Charlie in chapter 1. High school can be a scary time for many students and its something all teenagers must go through at some point. At Charlie’s first party he was exposed to alcohol and drugs for the first time. In chapter two Sam tells Charlie she loves him, and she also said she wanted his first kiss to be with someone who loves him. ‘And she kissed me. It was the kind of kiss that I could never tell my friends about out loud. It was the kind of kiss that made me know that I was never so happy in my whole life.’ Said Charlie. This was an intimate moment where Charlie experienced his first kiss with the girl he loves.
During chapter three Charlie took a girl out on a date which can be a nerve wrecking moment for many teenagers. He also experienced having his first relationship with Mary Elizabeth and first breakup although he never truly liked her in that way. Later in the same chapter Charlie’s father sat down with him and he received the sex talk. Learning about sex is part of Charlie’s transition in high school.
When Charlie got into his first physically fight this was the moment when Charlie went from being a bystander to standing up for his friend. This transition is very hard for many people to make but Charlie was able to. Realizing when you’re in love for the first time can be a powerful feeling. This rite of passage is one of the biggest in my opinion. It’s when you realize the difference between a crush and being in love by how you act and feel.
Here is a timeline of the story from beginning to end. Charlie begins writing to an anonymous person. He starts high school while dealing with best friend’s death. He meets his two best friends at a football game. Charlie attends his first party, has his first kiss, goes out on a date and officially become girlfriend and boyfriend. Lost all his friends by making a mistake in a round of truth or dare. Gained back his friends after getting into a fight to protect one of them. Charlie’s best friends graduate, and he finally expresses how he feels to his crush. Hospitalized for two months after mental breakdown from remembering the truth about his aunt. All his friends come back to visit him. Then the book ends with him starting sophomore year.
Charlie ended the book by saying ‘Tomorrow, I start my sophomore year of high school. And believe it or not, I’m really not that afraid of going. I’m not sure if I will have the time to write any more letters because I might be too busy trying to participate.’
His attitude the towards the world, school and himself changed. Everything that he had been through freshman year allowed him to mature in becoming a new person with new ideas and thoughts. Charlie is also saying instead of staying home, sitting in his room writing letters his going to be out in the world and participate.