In 1999, Stephen Chbosky released his debut novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Presented in the epistolary format, the book related the experiences of Charlie, a shy and troubled teen who slowly comes out of his shell with the help of some new friends, the music of The Smiths, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Set in the early 1990s, the book immediately struck a chord with readers young and old with its frank and often funny and heartfelt descriptions of teenage life. Because the book dealt realistically with issues that included homosexuality, casual drug use, and other controversial topics, it immediately became banned in certain school districts. However, the book continues to resonate with readers who have found catharsis through reading Charlie’s letters to an unknown person.
A feature film adaptation written and directed by Chbosky was released in 2012. Starring Logan Lerman as Charlie, Harry Potter co-star Emma Watson as the angelic Sam, and Ezra Miller as the flamboyant Patrick, the movie is the rare adaptation that both respects and enhances the source material. The film was a modest art house hit and is on its way to slowly becoming a cult phenomenon, not unlike Rocky Horror itself. It is certain that in years to come both the book and the film will continue to help readers understand the, well, perks of “feeling infinite.”
A portion of Perks' enduring appeal is how the book (and film) uses music to reflect the characters personalities. The lost art of mix tape-making plays a crucial role in the story, with Charlie discovering how songs can help people like himself get through hard times and express their feelings in ways they might not be able to articulate.
Some of the timeless tunes featured in the book/film include The Smiths’ “Asleep,” Suzanne Vega’s “Gypsy,” Ride’s “Vapour Trail,” XTC’s “Dear God,” The Samples’ “Could It Be Another Change?” (which contains the line “you can’t love anyone until you love yourself,” a sentiment echoed by Perks’ declaration that “we accept the love we think we deserve”), Cocteau Twins’ “Pearly Dewdrops Drop,” and David Bowie’s anthemic “Heroes,” which in the movie version plays the crucial role of being the “tunnel song” that helps Charlie, Sam, and Patrick realize they are young, alive, and full of possibilities.
There’s no sign of a Perks sequel on the horizon, and this is probably a good thing as the story is perfectly contained. Yet I can’t help but wonder what songs would have been important to Charlie in time since the book/film ended. Thusly here’s a self-indulgent and totally imagined mixtape (or, if you prefer, a Spotify playlist) of some songs that the character might enjoy these days. These songs all make me feel infinite, and perhaps they will do the same for you.