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The Perks of Being a Wallflower Movie vs Book

Updated on March 6, 2013

The Perks of Being A Wallflower has been my all time favorite book for the last 8 years. So naturally I had mixed feelings about it becoming a movie. Then I heard that the author, Stephen Chbosky, was also directing the movie. That meant the movie was going to be exactly how the author had envisioned it and I became stoked.

Perks tells the story of Charlie, a student about to become a freshmen in high school after his only friend (Michael) killed himself at the end of their middle school year. Being a freshman in high school is scary enough but having no friends is unbearable. The only person that Charlie feels he could ever talk to was his Aunt Helen but she had also passed away when he was younger.

The most important aspect of the book is that Charlie's story is being told through a series of letters that he writes anonymously to an unknown person. In these letters, Charlie doesn't hold back. He explains every emotion and every important detail that happens in his life without fear of backlash.

Charlie is extremely socially awkward (which we can figure out by how he writes his letters) but somehow manages to become friends with two seniors, stepbrother and sister, Patrick and Sam. From there Charlie is brought into a new world of acceptance, drugs, and a love for someone he believes he can never have (Sam). The story is set in the early 90s and is filled with great music, books, and even the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

By being a wallflower, Charlie is able to see and learn about his friends, family, and how to live among them.


The Movie

Perks was released in the fall of 2012, 13 years after the novel was first published in 1999. I, of course, went to the first noon showing available that Friday morning. (Don't judge me).

First let's take a look at which actors played these beloved characters from the book.


Logan Lerman as Charlie

I first noticed Logan Lerman when I saw the trailer for Percy Jackson and the Olympians. For some reason he really stood out to me. When he was cast as Charlie I realized why. Lerman is the perfect Charlie. He even resembles the young man in the pictures on the back of the book.

The actor always seemed shy and vulnerable to me and he brings that to the character of Charlie.


Emma Watson as Sam

Sam is second to befriend Charlie and his love interest.

As much as I don't want to compare every role Watson does to Hermione in Harry Potter, it's hard not to for her first post HP movie. I was honestly worried when I heard Watson was to play Sam. I love HP, I love Hermione, and I love Watson but Sam was going to be a challenge.

For the most part Watson did great. I think she tried too hard in many parts to have an American accent. There were times where it was so noticable that it even took me out of the movie. At first I thought maybe it was because I knew she was British but after my roommate saw it (who has never seen an HP movie) said that she could tell she had an accent occasionally as well.

I will say that there was never a point where I saw Hermione though. Watson really embodied


Ezra Miller as Patrick

Patrick was the first person that Charlie tried to befriend in the book.

Miller is not what I pictured at all for Patrick. While Patrick isn't physically described in the book, I pictured more of a jock. When we first meet Patrick in the novel, he is an expert in football (which we later find out why) and that he used to be popular until Sam showed him good music. I felt Miller played a too flamboyant Patrick. I thought his homosexuality was supposed to be a surprise but as soon as I saw the first preview it was obvious Patrick was gay.

So when I first went to see the movie, I tried to put my past idea of what Patrick looked like aside. Overall I absolutely loved Miller as Patrick. He played the part of a sad and tortured teenager hiding behind his humor so well. I think he stole so many of the scenes.


The movie is filled with many other famous actors. Some are well established and loved like Kate Walsh, Dylan McDermott, or even Paul Rudd. There are also some familiar children actors such as Mae Whitman, Johnny Simmons, and Nina Dobrev. The overall cast was just absolutely perfect and exactly what I pictured for each character.

Changes from the book

I am going to try not to add any parts that contain big spoilers because I don't want to ruin anything. I also want everyone to understand that I knew the movie wasn't going to contain everything from the book (it would probably be about 8 hours long, which I actually wouldn't mind). I am just listing parts that were either my favorite or that were important to the book and I was shocked they weren't kept in.

The Mixtape

For those of us that grew up in the lovely 90s, we all remember mixtapes. That's why in Perks (set in the 90s) mixtapes are important to the novel and make many appearances in the book. Charlie falls in love with The Smiths - "Asleep" after hearing it from a mixtape. When he made Patrick a mixtape for secret santa at Christmas, Patrick knew it was from Charlie because the song was on there twice.

Here is what was changed. In the book, Charlie lists the songs that are on the mixtape. that he gave Patrick. When I first read Perks, I even made the mixtape (well on a CD since I read the book in 2005). I was hoping to hear all of those songs one way or another throughtout the movie but "Asleep" was the only song used. The songs really set the tone of the book and when completely different songs were used for the movie I was heartbroken. If you have ever read any of my other blogs, you will know I'm a little obsessed with music.

Here's a list of the songs:

"Asleep" - The Smiths

"Vapour Trail" - Ride

"Scarborough Fair" - Simon & Garfunkel

"A Whiter Shade of Pale" - Procol Harum

"Time of No Reply" - Nick Drake

"Dear Prudence" - The Beatles

"Gypsy" - Suzanne Vega

"Nights in White Satin" - The Moody Blues

"Daydream" - Smashing Pumpkins

"Dusk" - Genesis

"MLK" -U2

"Blackbird" - The Beatles

"Landslide" - Fleetwood Mac

"Asleep" - The Smiths

I can't even describe how much better I feel some scenes could have been if "Nights in White Satin" began to play or any of these Beatles songs.

One of the most infamous scenes in the book and movie is the tunnel scene.

In the movie, Sam, Patrick, and Charlie hear this song on the radio which makes them want to go the Fort Pitt Tunnel where Sam stands in the bed of their pickup truck wind blowing through her dress. Charlie says, "I feel infinite". They didn't know which song was playing (which it was Bowie's - "Heroes").

In the book, the three characters hear a song that none of them know before a homecoming party that makes Charlie say "I feel infinite". After the party, they drive through the tunnel with "Landslide" playing and Sam standing in the bed of the pickup truck.

Now I am not trying to nit-pic! I promise. I'm just trying to show how these two songs completely change the mood of what is happening in that scene. I honestly don't know which version I like better. Maybe if they had used "Landslide" the first time through the tunnel in the movie? Then at the end have "Heroes" because it has more of an uplifting feeling at the end?

I did LOVE the addition of Cracker's "Low" to the scene where Charlie goes to his first party. Perfect! Done venting about music.


The Use of Michael

As I stated earlier, Michael was Charlie's best friend and he killed himself. In the book, we learn about Michael right away. In the movie, Charlie waits until the homecoming party to tell Sam about Michael's death. I watched the commentary from author/director Chbosky and he explained he didn't want to start the movie off with Michael's death because he didn't want people to think it was a suicide movie. I understand that.

The problem is that after Charlie tells Sam about Michael we see Sam whisper this to Patrick. She also tells Patrick that she doesn't think Charlie has any friends. It gave me the feeling that Sam and Patrick become Charlie's friend because they pity him. In the novel their friendship is natural and I wish it had seemed that way in the movie too.


The Poem

For those of you who have read the book, you are now thinking, "Ahh yes, the poem".

In the novel Charlie's final secret Santa present to Patrick is a poem that he had been given by Michael. He reads it to his friends while Patrick plays his mixtape. It's a tragic and heartbreaking poem and I have cherished it since reading the book.

Once on a yellow piece of paper with green lines he wrote a poem
And he called it "Chops"
because that was the name of his dog
And that's what it was all about
And his teacher gave him an A and a gold star
And his mother hung it on the kitchen door
and read it to his aunts.
That was the year Father Tracy
took all the kids to the zoo
And he let them sing on the bus
And his little sister was born
with tiny toenails and no hair
And his mother and father kissed a lot
And the girl around the corner sent him
a vaentine signed with a row of X's
and he had to ask his father what the X's meant
And his father always tucked him in bed at night
And was always there to do it.

Once on a piece of white paper with blue lines
he wrote a poem
And he called it "Autumn"
because that was the name of the season
And that's what it was all about
And his teacher gave him an A
and asked him to write more clearly
And his mother never hung it on the kitchen door
because of its new paint
And the kids told him that
Father Tracy smoked cigars
And left butts on the pews
And sometimes they would burn holes
That was the year his sister got glasses
with thick lenses and black frames
And the girl around the corner laughed
when he asked her to go see Santa Claus
And the kids told him why
his mother and father kissed a lot
And his father never tucked him in bed at night
And his father got mad
when he cried for him to do it.

Once on a paper torn from his notebook
he wrote a poem
And he called it "Innocence: A Question"
because that was the question about his girl
And that's what it was all about
And his professor gave him an A
and a strange steady look
And his mother never hung it on the kitchen door
because he never showed her
That was the year that Father Tracy died
And he forgot how the end
of the Apostle's Creed went
And he caught his sister
making out on the back porch
And his mother and father never kissed
or even talked
And the girl around the corner
wore too much makeup
That made him cough when he kissed her
but he kissed her anyway
because that was the thing to do
And at three a.m. he tucked himself into bed
his father snoring soundly

That's why on the back of a brown paper bag
he tried another poem
And he called it "Absolutely Nothing"
Because that's what it
was really all about
And he gave himself an A
and a slash on each damned wrist
And he hung it on the bathroom door
because this time he didn't
think he could reach the kitchen.

Tragic and heartbreaking were the best words to use right? I think one of the biggest complaints from fans of the novel is that this part was cut from the movie. So many fans are saying "It's okay! It's in the deleted scenes!" This would be okay but I don't just love the poem. I love when it is referenced a second time in the novel and that part wasn't filmed.

On New Years Eve, Charlie is on LSD and writing a little in circles because of the drug. He ends a letter like this:

"I just remembered what made me think of all this. I'm going to write it down because maybe if I do I won't have to think about it. And I won't get upset. But the thing is that I can hear Sam and Craig having sex, and for the first time in my life, I understand the end of that poem.

And I never wanted to. You have to believe me." (Chbosky 96).

Chbosky, Stephen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: Pocket Books, 1999. 96. Print.

I still remember how my heart sank into my stomach the first time I read those lines. Charlie was such an innocent young freshmen who had had so many bad things happen to him but had stayed naïve and hopeful. Then for the first time he truly understands depression and shares it with us. There are no words to even describe why this part was important to me. I just really wish it would have happened in the movie.

What I loved:

Alright alright. Enough criticism. A few quick things that I loved in the movie.

The way that the tunnels scenes were shot (no matter which songs were playing) was absolutely magical. It felt like we were riding in the tunnel with Charlie and experiencing it all with him. The tunnel that inspired the scene in the novel is breathtaking.

Patrick gets into a physical fight in the lunchroom at school and Charlie comes to his rescue. In the movie, I love how Sam hurls herself into the fight to try to save Patrick but is immediately thrown out. Watson and Miller said in their commentary that they both sustained minor injuries from that scene because they wanted it to be believable. And it was.

Little spoiler! Look away! When Charlie has his breakdown at the end, Chbosky was brilliant. Charlie didn't understand why he was a wallflower, why he was so different from everyone else, and neither did we as readers/viewers. We all discover it at the same time as Chbosky interlaces flashbacks with the present. Lerman absolutely shined in this part. There is a scene where he is sitting at his desk and keeps saying "Stop crying" as tears continue to roll down his cheeks. (Small fact for those who own the original back cover of the book. There are three small pictures of a young boy first covering his eyes, then his ears, then it just shows the back of his head. Chbosky added all three of those shots during the breakdown. Sorry guys I tried to find a picture online but I couldn't :/ I'll add a picture of my book).

Done nerding out. Long story short, perfect way to film the end of Charlie's story.

Overall, I applaud how Chbosky changed his beloved coming of age novel into a movie. I really hope that everyone out there at least watches the movie if they won't read the book but I do recommend that everyone does both. Thanks for reading and please let me know what you thought of Perks!

Did you like the movie or the book better?

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    • Nykki13 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Germantown, WI

      Thanks kereeves3 for reading! You definitely did the right thing by reading the book first! :) I think the writer/director did an amazing job at adapting the book. Thanks for the comment!

    • kereeves3 profile image


      5 years ago from Salem, OR

      I really wanted to see this movie when it came out, so I did the right thing and bought and read the book first! I have to say I absolutely loved the book; I devoured it very quickly. And then when I saw the movie, I was amazed at how it was adapted so closely. I did miss that the scene about the poem wasn't shot for the film, but it didn't ruin it for me. Overall, I really liked them both! Great Hub!


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