Module 15: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
“We accept the love we think we deserve.”
This book is truly a coming of age tale. It tells the story of Charlie, a 15-year old boy who is starting his first year in high school. Charlie’s story is written in a series of letters to an anonymous person, similar to a diary. He recounts growing up, the tragedy of having a friend die, the effects of losing his favorite aunt at a young age, and the struggles of going through high school, finding new friends, and just learning how and where he fits in despite how he sees himself.
I had read this book before but it’s been years since the last time so I picked it up again. The module I read it for was about controversial books. I remembering thinking, “This book isn’t that controversial!” until I read it again. Through heartbreaking and tragic events, Charlie remembers some difficult times in his childhood. He has a friend commit suicide, an aunt whose actions Charlie had repressed, homosexuality, sexual abuse and some serious depression among other things. Despite what sounds like a complete downer of a book, it is filled with wonder and excitement at the new experiences and friendships that Charlie makes. Being the wallflower that he is, he sees people in a different way from how they see themselves and his observations can be applied to a ride range of people in real life. If there is one book you read next year, it should be this one because despite the controversy surrounding the themes, it contains a lot of pertinent information about growing up.
“Grounded in a specific time (the 1991/92 academic year) and place (western Pennsylvania), Charlie, his friends, and family are palpably real. His grandfather is an embarrassing bigot; his new best friend is gay; his sister must resolve her pregnancy without her boyfriend’s support. Charlie develops from an observant wallflower into his own man of action, and, with the help of a therapist, he begins to face the sexual abuse he had experienced as a child. This report on his life will engage teen readers for years to come.”
– Francisca Goldsmith
“First-novelist Chbosky captures adolescent angst, confusion, and joy as Charlie reveals his innermost thoughts while trying to discover who he is and whom he is to become. Intellectually precocious, Charlie seems a tad too naive in many other ways, yet his reflections on family interactions, first date, drug experimentation, first sexual encounter, and regular participation in Rocky Horror Picture Show screenings are compelling.”
– Sally Estes
Perks is an important book for teens to read despite being on the banned book list. It should be included in a display on banned books or used a reference point for kids who struggle with depression, drug use, were sexually molested, or for kids who are questioning their sexuality.
Chbosky, S. (1999). The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York, New York: MTV Books.
Estes, S. (1999). Review of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The Book List 95(12), 1038-1039. Retrieved from http://www.booklistonline.com.
Goldsmith, F. (1999). Review of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. School Library Journal 45(6), 126-129. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com