The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.” (Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a book that has been recommended to me since the early 2000s when I was just entering my teenage years. Friends told me it was their favorite book and a must read. I even had a friend tell me that it was “Everything – my bible!” When I finally read it at the age of sixteen I realized why my peers had felt so strongly about this book. While 23-year-old me feels differently about the book now, I still feel that this novel is one that has a way of making the feelings of an identity-seeking young adult validated. This book gives perspective on the classic coming-of-age story and provides a place for teenagers to understand that finding who you really are is hard and that’s okay.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming of age story that follows the life of 15-year-old Charlie who is beginning his sophomore year of high school after the suicide of his one and only friend. Readers follow Charlie’s journey, which is unveiled through letters to an unknown recipient. The novel explores many issues that teens (and even adults!) struggle with such as drugs and alcohol, sexual orientation, suicide, fighting, friendship, family, self-identity/self-acceptance, anxiety, expressing opinions, being an active participant in life, forming your own opinions, and loving who you are. While these are often heavy issues that are sometimes hard to talk about, they are important issues that are explored and discussed within this novel. Many people have considered this book to be life changing.
“So, 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 try to feel okay about them.” – (Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.)
Why has it been challenged or banned & why should we read it?
The Perks of Being a Wallflower has a history of being both challenged and removed from certain schools. It has been challenged for dealing with drugs, alcohol, sexual behavior, homosexuality, rape, and abuse. It was even challenged at the West Bend (WI) Community Memorial Library as being “obscene or child pornography,” but was not removed. However, in 2010 freshman and sophomores needed parental permission to check it out at a high school in Roanoke, VA. In 2005, the book was challenged at a school in Texas for having “gay positive themes.” The book has been frequently challenged throughout the last decade, but it is important to see the merit in young adults reading this novel.
While there are sensitive issues in this novel that can be viewed as unorthodox or unpopular, that is a reason in itself for students to read and discuss this novel. Rather than shielding our students from these issues, it is important for them to talk about them, especially if they ever go through similar circumstances. Giving students an outlet to relate to and talk about problems that they face is important for their development, and we must remember that growing up is an overwhelming and complicated process. Books that show teenagers this process and that they aren’t alone should not be banned.
Want to read more about challenges to this book?:
An interview with Stephen Chbosky:
This book is now a movie!: