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Posts Tagged ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
By Stephen Chbosky
ISBN: 9780671027346
Publisher: MTV Books/Pocket Books
Date of Publication: 1999

Reader’s Annotation:
As Charlie begins his first year in high school, he must navigate between what it means to be a friend and what it means to be yourself.

Plot Summary:
On the day before the start of his freshmen year in high school, Charlie begins to write a letter to an anonymous recipient. Throughout the year, Charlie continues to write letters about all the things he experiences.

For Charlie is a shy boy. His favorite aunt died in a tragic car accident when he was young and his good friend killed himself last year. An artistic soul, Charlie longs to make a friend but finds himself to be more of an observer on the sidelines.

But something magical happens to Charlie. He makes not only one friend but two which leads him into a whole new world he never imagined. Together with his new friends, Patrick and Sam, Charlie begins to emerge from being a mere observer to a person with purpose and direction.

Combining family drama with the chaotic world of high school, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the tale of a young man struggling to find his voice and to find love with friendship and other possibilities.

Critical Evaluation:
Tackling issues such as depression, suicide, abuse (sexual and substance), homosexuality, teen sexuality, and homophobia, this teen classic continues to have an impact on its audience. It’s clear from Chbosky’s writing that he feels that it is important to maintain an honest discussion of these highlighted topics. Chbosky doesn’t shy away from these issues and does use them in a away that they don’t feel like plot devices but a natural part of Charlie’s growing maturity.

The interactions with Patrick and Sam were amusing at the beginning in that it seems that the duo are merely humoring Charlie, but as the year goes on, it’s clear that Charlie has begun to have an impact on their lives as well. While Charlie is meant to be an observer, a wallflower, he does miss key elements due to his innocence. One can’t help but wonder if Charlie’s parents have been overprotective of him, shielding him from situations that other kids find normal or if Charlie’s depression has clouded his sight.

The book does showcase a tie to the writings of J.D. Salinger, specifically with The Catcher in the Rye. While the character of Holden Caufield might be more known for his alienated behavior, he shares a sense of loneliness in Charlie. The letter writing format of the story doesn’t detract from the storyline and is an entertaining format to read.

Information about the Author:
Stephen Chbosky grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A graduate of University of Southern California, Chbosky has worked in film and television. His first book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, has been recently adapted into a film, which Chbosky also directed.

Stephen Chbosky on Twitter

Genre:
Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties:
Abuse, Homosexuality, and Alienation

Booktalking Ideas:
Why are some memories are fresh and why are some forgotten?
Have you ever felt alone in a crowd?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Ages 16 and up.

Challenging Issues:
According to the Office for Intellectual Freedom, The Perks of Being a Wallflower was a highly challenged or banned in 2009. (OIF, 2010). Those who have challenged the book have cited issues with the book’s discussion of sexuality (masturbation and homosexuality), the use of drugs and alcohol, and language.

The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
I read this book when it first came out in 1999. I was instantly enamored with the material and felt a deep, lasting connection to Charlie and his life. When I attended a screening for the recent film adaptation, it was exciting to see a large group of teens scattered throughout the theatre. What was even more excited was to overhear the teens discuss the difference between the book and the film. For a book to continue to resonate with teens, after over ten years since its publication, means that this is an important book to recommend to teens, and possibility to older readers as well.

Reference:
Office for Intellectual Freedom. (2010). Spotlight on censorship – The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  OIF Blog. Retrieved from http://www.oif.ala.org/oif/?p=1525

Simon and Schuster. (2012). Stephen Chbosky/Official Publisher Page. Simon and Schuster. Retrieved from http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Stephen-Chbosky/1843916

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Bonus Feature!

Mini Film Adaptation Review!

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