Charlie is the narrator and the protagonist of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. He tells his story via a series of letters addressed to Friend. His first letter is dated August 25, 1991, when Charlie enters high school as a freshman. Charlie's best friend Michael has recently committed suicide, and this only exacerbates Charlie's existing emotional problems. He's drawn to Patrick and Sam, two fellow misfits, both seniors. Charlie joins their friend group and is introduced to drinking, smoking, and a handful of recreational drugs, including pot and LSD. These sometimes get him into trouble, once even landing him in the hospital after a party. At the same time, he wrestles with sexual feelings for Sam, who loves him, but just as a friend (for the most part). Sam's relationship with Craig severely upsets Charlie, who believes he understands Michael's suicide after hearing Sam and Craig having sex. Things finally come to a head when Charlie kisses Sam instead of his girlfriend during a game of Truth or Dare. Their friendship is ruined—temporarily, at least—and Charlie is left friendless and alone. After defending Patrick in a fight at a school, the friends are able to reconcile. Charlie acts as a confidante and shoulder to cry on during Patrick's breakup with Brad. Only after Sam learns about Craig's infidelity do Charlie and Sam truly mend fences. They have an aborted sexual encounter the night before she leaves for college, which triggers a massive episode for Charlie. It reminds him of the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of Aunt Helen, who fondled him as a child. After years of blocking out the memories, Charlie finally faces the demons of his past. In the novel's epilogue, he writes that life is getting better—or, if not, it will. He's hopeful.
Sam is a beautiful senior at Charlie's high school. Her brother Patrick takes shop class with Charlie, and all three of them meet at a football game, which Sam and Patrick attend for Patrick's boyfriend, the closeted quarterback. From the beginning, Sam likes Charlie, but just as a friend. She gives him a beautiful typewriter on Christmas, then kisses him, because, she says, his first kiss should be from someone who loves him. Charlie understands that she only loves him as a friend. Sam starts dating Craig, a college boy, who doesn't respect her and, as she later learns, repeatedly cheats on her. She's very careful not to encourage Charlie's sexual feelings for her, and after he kisses her at a party she cuts off all contact with him, citing the fact that Craig doesn't want her to see Charlie. For a while, it seems like their friendship will never recover; then, after Sam breaks...
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