I usually love coming-of-age stories, but there is a desperation to be profound here with a clutter of subjects like suicide, domestic abuse, drug use, abortion, homosexuality, depression, and molestation that all fail to be executed in any sort of meaningful way. There are ways to make it work, too. Take Alexander Chee's Edinburgh, for example. Another coming-of-age story which includes the same emotionally unsettlingly subject matter of molestation and sexual abuse, issues of sexuality, and suicide, but still manages to be properly addressed and beautifully written. Seems like Chbosky was just trying to see how many risky and controversial topics he can juggle in one book, which just ends up being sloppy and underdeveloped— suicide, abortion, and rape are all mentioned then gone at the drop of a hat one or two pages later. There must have been a checklist Chbosky was using to make sure every delicate issue makes its debut.
All characters are one-dimensional and the plot is severely lacking in depth, too. Charlie is the most unrealistic protagonist I have ever read about and isn't a wallflower in any sense of the word. I was in high school once not too long ago: I would have even considered myself to be seclusive through those days, and yet there is nothing here that I felt spoke to my own experience or hit me on any level because of how artificial and generic the writing is in its depiction of high school outcasts, which I find almost insulting to those who actually suffer from the same mental illnesses Charlie has. Also, what sixteen year old boy hasn't heard about masturbation? I wish I can say that part of the reason why I didn't connect with this book as much as others have is just due to the fact that I've read it after my own adolescence, but unfortunately that isn't even the case. This book is just for the whiny and angsty teenagers that are unable to relate to anything beyond an incredibly narrow range of clichés.
(The only reason why I submitted to watching the movie as well is because of the fact that Emma Watson plays Sam, but with Chbosky having written the screenplay and directed the adaptation of his own work the movie fails to deliver in the same ways, too.)