One of my favorite messages in this novel is the importance of inclusivity and celebrating diversity. When we make space for everyone's experiences and voices and see people as their authentic selves, everyone grows and learns. On the other hand, when we exclude people and judge others for their differences, we inflict pain.
Charlie feels that his depression makes him an outsider when he enters high school. His behaving like a wallflower and his alienation from others, however, only exacerbate those feelings. When Patrick and Sam become Charlie's friends, Charlie feels he can be himself with them. Even though his life doesn't suddenly become perfect because he has friends, their presence helps him navigate tough situations, like grappling with his repressed memories of his Aunt Helen's abuse.
When we judge people because we perceive they are different than the norm, we cause suffering. For example, when Brad's father discovers that Brad is in a relationship with Patrick, Brad begins to be embarrassed about the fact that he is gay to the point of mocking Patrick in public. The football team helps Brad gang up against Patrick, not knowing that someone on their team (Brad) has been in a closeted relationship because of his own insecurities. Luckily, Patrick has friends who help him mourn the end of this relationship. Brad, on the other hand, who has no one he can be his true self with, continues to repress his sexuality, desperately searching for connection with strangers while hiding the fact that he is gay from those closest to him.
One of my favorite quotes is by Maya Angelou is, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." The Perks of Being a Wallflower is all about creating a safe space where people can be their true selves and the consequences of not having that space on both an individual and communal level. It's better to accept the truth than hate a facade.