Published in 1999, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" is narrated by a male teenager who goes by the alias of 'Charlie', describing various scenes in his life by writing a series of letters to an anonymous person, whom he does not know personally.
The story explores topics such as introversion, teenage sexuality and the awkward times of adolescence. The book also touches strongly on drug use and Charlie's experiences with this. As the story progresses, various works of literature and film are referenced and their meanings discussed.
The story takes place in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during the 1991–1992 school year, when Charlie is a high school freshman. Charlie is the wallflower of the novel. He is an unconventional thinker, and as the story begins he is shy and unpopular.
Author Chbosky cited J. D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" as the main inpsiration for the novel.