"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" Book Discussion and Vanilla "Twinkie" Cupcakes Recipe
Charlie is a teenage boy who is still suffering from survivor’s guilt over the death of his favorite family member, his aunt Helen. She was the only one who hugged him, and now his brother is away at college playing football, his sister is secretly dating an abusive boyfriend in high school and she has no time for her little brother. Luckily, Charlie has made two new friends—Patrick and his sister Sam, who is the most beautiful girl Charlie has ever seen, even more so the more he gets to know her.
But when both of his friends become consumed with their own lives, Charlie's repressed demons appear, and things that should be making his life better weigh him down, as he struggles to try to make everyone in his life happy, despite his own desires.
This book deals with difficult, heavy topics such as sex, abortion, teen drinking, drugs, homosexuality, physical and sexual abuse, and suicide, and what it's like to watch the people you love hurting or engage in self-destructive behaviors.
is about family and friendship and forgiveness, about participating in life and being present, not just an observer. And about letting go of the things you can't control, but still wishing for the happiness of others, and contributing as much as you're able. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Perfect for fans of:
- Coming of age novels
- Mental health issues
- Feeling outcast/being different
- Teen issues
- Finding friends/your place
- struggling with people-pleasing
- the search for happiness
- overcoming trauma/PTSD/abuse
Why do school bullies like Sean want to hurt people like Charlie just because he’s small and didn’t know Charlie could fight?
Why do you think Charlie’s sister who ranted about feminism didn’t do anything but look at him quietly when her boyfriend hit her? Was she bullying her boyfriend? (Note: a guy hitting a girl, even one who bullies him, is never acceptable behavior). What kind of twisted logic do you think made her accept that behavior?
What did Sam mean that girls like guys “that can give them a purpose. Girls like guys to be a challenge. It gives them some mold to fit in how they act”?
Sometimes Charlie liked to pretend silly things, like being a college student visit Sam and Patrick for the football game. Why did Charlie so greatly appreciate that Sam didn’t think he was crazy for that? Do you have any silly little eccentricities like that, and appreciate friends who don’t get annoyed by them or try to shut you down?
In contrast to Sam and Patrick, how did Charlie’s siblings treat him? How was his father with physical affection, and why do you think that was, knowing how he grew up?
What did Charlie mean by “in that moment, I swear we were infinite”? Have you ever felt that way?
Why did Charlie think it was “bad when a boy looks at a girl and thinks that the way he sees the girl is better than the girl actually is”? He said that if Craig took a photograph of Sam, “he would think the photograph was beautiful because of how he took it. If I took it, I would know the only reason it was beautiful was because of Sam.” Why did this, and the fact that Craig didn’t really listen to her, make Charlie not like Craig?
Charlie said “I love Twinkies, and the reason I am saying that is because we are all supposed to think of reasons to live.” Eve though it’s a silly reason, how would a list like this help Charlie? What other things were on his list? What things might be on Sam’s or Patrick’s lists? What would be on yours?
Charlie couldn’t figure out , but what do you think the significance is of the rats in the science experiment “who put up with a lot more voltage for the pleasure. Even more than for the food.” Who in his life shared this similarity?
Why did Charlie find supermodels strange, even though his brother had many posters of them?
Have you ever experienced the Thanksgiving or Christmas family conundrum of “how everyone loves each other, but no one really likes each other”? How is that possible?
What were some of the songs on the mixtape Charlie made for Patrick? Do you have any songs that likewise helped you through bad times? Or that you enjoyed through good times and have good memories associated with some songs?
What outfit was Charlie wearing that “I think it was the first time in my life when I ever felt like I looked ‘good’? What was the last outfit or hair day or cut or article of clothing or accessory that made you feel that way? Did you try to hold on to that confident, happy feeling all day?
What was the poem that Charlie read to everyone about? Why didn’t Charlie understand it well at the time?
When Charlie started having panic attacks, sometimes he thought about Sam to help calm him. What were some of his triggers, and the ultimate cause of them? What are some things that people could think about or refocus on to try to help them through these attacks? How can calmly addressing the source of the fear sometimes help too, by looking at what things might cause associative distress, or safely dealing with things that trigger people? What truths or mantras could also help to hold onto?
How did Charlie’s uncle Phil not go to jail for beating up his mother’s second husband when he found out that man was beating his wife and stepdaughter, and took care of things at a bar with his friends? Are we living in different times now, where people no longer “looked the other way” “if someone touched your sister or mother and paid the price”?
Was acceptance of abuse a generational bondage in Charlie’s family? Who suffered from it? Why was it so hard for some of the women to escape being with partners who were abusive?
How did Charlie have survivor’s guilt about his aunt Helen’s death, and a birthday present for him?
Charlie said that sometimes he would feel bad, then it would go away, and he didn’t know why. And that he tried to remind himself when he felt great that “there will be a terrible week coming someday, so I should store up as many great details as I can, so during the next terrible week, I can remember those details and believe that I’ll feel great again.” What were some of the good days or details he chose to remember? What are some you would choose, or perhaps write down to remember?
Why did beauty and gossip magazines make Charlie feel so sad? What things did he wonder about the cover models’ choices and lives? Have you ever thought about those things? Do you think some magazines would continue to be what they are if more people humanized models and celebrities that way?
The first time anyone ever counted on Charlie for anything was his sister, but what happened? What was the irony after it that made them both laugh?
Why do you think the record store was the one place where Mary Elizabeth felt like herself? How was her giving Charlie a record more about her than about him, and why did that bother him (for a hint, see quotes section at the bottom of the page).
Why did Mary Elizabeth have the habit of asking Charlie about his opinion on books he’d read, then just ask him “long questions that were merely her opinions with a question mark put at the end”? How could she have asked better questions? Why did this type of behavior make them wrong for each other, or the relationship unhealthy/unbalanced? Why did Mary E. like Peter better?
Charlie’s sister said the best thing to do about his issues with his relationship with Mary Eliozabeth was to be honest. Why did he keep putting it off? How did he choose to finally be completely honest, and why was doing it that way an unwise, unkind choice?
How was Charlie passive aggressive, especially with people like Mary Elizabeth? What was “wrong with him” that made him act unusual or different sometimes? How were some of his other differences unrelated to his trauma, and were just things that other people found difficult to accept (like some of his pretending)? Why is it important to find people who are the same type of different as you, or accepting or entertained by your differences?
Why did Brad thank Charlie for stopping his friends? Why didn’t he do it himself? How did Charlie surprise everyone that day, especially with his uncontrollable crying after? Why do you think he cried?
How did Charlie help Patrick by just being there and letting Patrick show Charlie his world? What things should he not have been passive about, and said that he just didn’t want to do them? Why didn’t he?
What does the phrase mean “I would die for you. But I won’t live for you”? How was that applicable to Charlie?
Why did Charlie’s teacher Bill give him all those extra books to read?
What was the reason Charlie gave for wanting to get his mother a present on his own birthday? How does this show Charlie’s kind, thoughtful nature? Why had it always been special to him that his aunt got him two presents?
What was Sam talking about when she told Charlie: “It’s great that you can listen and be a shoulder to someone, but what about when someone doesn’t need a shoulder. What if they need the arms or something like that? You can’t just sit there and put everyone’s lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can’t. You have to do things.”
How was Charlie not being a friend, though he thought he was, by not being honest with his friends, like Patrick and Mary Elizabeth?
How did Charlie finally learn to “participate,” and to be present in the tunnel? Why is that so important in life?
To whom do you think these letters were written?
Charlie once wrote “I love Twinkies, and the reason I am saying that is because we are all supposed to think of reasons to live.” While there are many, many reasons to live, as Charlie discovered, this recipe reflects his favorite food, in the form of a cupcake.
Vanilla "Twinkies" Cupcakes with Marshmallow Cream Centers and Vanilla Frosting
For the cupcake:
- 1/2 (1/4 cup) stick salted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup whole milk, at room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
For the filling:
- 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 1/2 tbsp milk powder
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 full droppers (about 1/4 tsp) Lorann oil marshmallow flavoring, (optional, but delicious!)
For the frosting:
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3 tbsp whole milk or heavy cream
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 full dropper (about 1/8 tsp) Lorann oil marshmallow flavoring, (optional)
Essential Ingredient I used to make the Frosting and Filling taste like Marshmallow
- Preheat oven to 325° F. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. In a stand mixer on medium speed, beat one softened stick of butter with the granulated sugar until smooth, about 2 minutes. Drop the speed to low, add the sour cream and milk, then slowly add one third of the dry ingredients to the bowl, followed by the vanilla extract. Add another third of the dry ingredients, and if you see them sticking to the side of the bowl, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add in the last of the dry ingredients, and increase the speed to medium. Then add the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated, then turn off the mixer.
- Line a cupcake pan with paper liners. Fill each cupcake liner about two-thirds full with batter. Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out with crumbs, not raw batter. Allow the individual cupcakes to cool completely (minimum of ten minutes, preferably fifteen) on a wire rack or cutting board before filling them.
- For the cream filling, in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium-high speed, whip the heavy cream for three full minutes, then add the extracts/flavoring oils, followed by the milk powder. Drop the speed to low and add the powdered sugar. Whip for one more minute. Set aside in a refrigerator while baked cupcakes cool. When the cupcakes are cool, use it to fill a piping bag an XL round tip, or a zip top bag and cut a large tip off. Press the piping tip or bag tip onto the cupcake, about 2/3 deep, but not all the way through. Squeeze the filling out of the bag as you pull the bag up and out of the cupcake. Try not to fill above the top of the cake.
- For the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip one stick of softened butter on medium-high speed for one minute. Then drop the speed to low and add one cup of powdered sugar, followed by half of the milk or cream, and the vanilla extract and marshmallow flavoring oil.Slowly add the remaining powdered sugar, followed by the rest of the milk, still on low speed. When there is no loose powder left, increase the speed to medium-high for one minute, until frosting looks thick and whipped. Frost onto cooled, filled cupcakes. I used an XL star tip for piping. Makes 12-14 cupcakes.
Vanilla Cupcakes with Marshmallow Cream Centers and Vanilla Frosting
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Books mentioned within this one are: To Kill a Mockingbird, This Side of Paradise, Peter Pan, The Great Gatsby, A Separate Peace, The Mayor of Castro Street, The Catcher in the Rye, Walden, On the Road, Naked Lunch, The Stranger, Hamlet, The Fountainhead, and the poet e.e. cummings, as well as the author Anne Rice.
For more books about teens struggling with mental health, and learning how to cope with the overwhelmingness of life, read Turtles All the Way Down by John Green, All the Bright Places, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, The Astonishing Color of After, Hard Love, or Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.
Funny, smart, teen coming-of-age novels include Sloppy Firsts, The Secret Life of the North American Teenager, The Beginning of Everything, or Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.
“I just need to know that someone out there listens and understands...I need to know that these people exist...because I think you of all people are alive and appreciate what that means. At least I hope you do because other people look to you for strength and friendship and it's that simple.”
“Everyone needs a mom. And a mom knows this. And it gives her a sense of purpose.”
“We accept the love we think we deserve.”
“Let the quiet put things where they are supposed to be.”
“He left them to deal with their family and came home to deal with his.”
“Not everyone has a sob story, and even if they do, it’s no excuse.”
“I feel infinite.”
“He’s a wallflower...You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.”
“And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”
“Maybe these are my glory days and I’m not even realizing it…”
“I am very interested and fascinated by how everyone loves each other, but no one really likes each other.”
“I thought about how many people have loved those songs. And how many people got through a lot of bad times because of those songs. And how many people enjoyed good times with those songs.”
“I think it was the first time in my life when I ever felt like I looked ‘good.’ Do you know what I mean? That nice feeling when you look in the mirror, and your hair’s right for the first time in your life? I don’t think we should base so much on weight, muscles, and a good hair day, but when it happens, it’s nice.”
“You should tell her how nice her outfit is because her outfit is her choice whereas her face isn’t.”
“I would give someone a record so they could love the record, not so they would always know that I gave it to them.”
“I just wish that God or my parents or Sam or my sister or someone would just tell me how to be different in a way that makes sense. To make all this go away. And disappear. I know that’s wrong because it’s my responsibility, and I know that things get worse before they get better…”
“...things change. And friends leave. And life doesn’t stop for anybody.”
“It’s just hard to see a friend hurt this much. Especially when you can’t do anything except ‘be there.” I want to make him stop hurting, but I can’t. So I just follow him around whenever he wants to show me his world.”
“I would die for you. But I won’t live for you.”
“I just thought about the word ‘special’...I was very grateful to have heard it again. Because I guess we all forget sometimes. And I think everyone is special in their own way. I really do.”
“It’s great that you can listen and be a shoulder to someone, but what about when someone doesn’t need a shoulder. What if they need the arms or something like that? You can’t just sit there and put everyone’s lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can’t. You have to do things.”
“So tomorrow, I’m leaving. And I’m not going to let that [not being honest or not doing things out of fear of what others think] happen again with anyone else. I’m going to do what I want to do. I’m going to be who I really am. And I’m going to figure out what that is.”
“I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can still try to feel okay about them.”
“…I was standing in the tunnel. And I was really there. And that was enough to make me feel infinite.”
“Please believe that things are good with me, and even when they’re not, they will be soon enough. And I will believe the same about you. Love always, Charlie.”
© 2019 Amanda Leitch