The Perks of Being a Wallflower

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Title: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Author: Stephen Chbosky

ISBN: 9780671027346

Publisher: Pocket Books

Copyright Date: 1999

Plot Summary:

Fifteen year old Charlie lives life as a wallflower, always unobtrusive and melting into the background.  He enters high school friendless and alone shortly after his best friend commits suicide.  The book is written as a series of letters to an unknown recipient.  The letters describe the events that take place Charlie’s freshman year, and reveal terrible secrets that have haunted his past.

Charlie is befriended by two seniors, Patrick, a vibrant gay teen, and Sam, a beautiful, but troubled individual.  His friendship with these two individuals open up a world of romance, betrayal and forgiveness.  Eventually, a series of events force Charlie to reflect on past traumas and embrace painful truths about himself and his family.

Critical Evaluation:

This book is what I like to call a “thinker,” meaning you think about it long after you finish it. Charlie has suffered through many traumatic experiences, and Chbosky really conveys a truthful depiction of how a teen copes with pain. Reading the story, it is hard to believe that it was not actually written by a teen boy. Charlie is more introverted than the average teenager, but his quiet observations make him very insightful and sensitive to the reactions of others.

I spent most of the novel trying to guess who Charlie was writing to. I suppose if this was truly important, Chbosky would have revealed the unknown recipient at the end. It was clearly an intentional choice to keep the recipient anonymous, and I would interested to read up on why he made this literary choice. I almost feel that he could have achieved the same affect if Charlie was writing in a diary, but I suppose it is easier to address your feelings to someone in particular as opposed to an inanimate object.

Reader’s Annotation: Charlie has always blended into the background. He carefully guards his pain from those around him, and it takes two extraordinary individuals to draw him out of his shell to embrace the unknown.

About the Author:

“Stephen Chbosky grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and graduated from the University of Southern California’s Filmic Writing Program. His first film, The Four Corners of Nowhere, premiered at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival and went on to win Best Narrative Feature honors at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. He is the recipient of the Abraham Polonsky Screenwriting Award for his screenplay Everything Divided as well as a participant in the Sundance Institute’s filmmakers’ lab for his current project, Fingernails and Smooth Skin. Chbosky lives in New York.”

Genre: Young adult, realistic fiction

Curriculum Ties: English/Language Arts

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Discuss what it means to be a wallflower.
  • Read the passage with the popular, “We accept the love we think we deserve” quote.

Reading Level/Interest Age: Grades 9-12, Ages 15-18

Challenge Issues: molestation of a child, suicide, teen sex, teen partying, LGBTQ character

Defense File:

Violence in the Media: A Joint Statement: 2000-2001 CD #19.3

Chapter 5 of Youth, Pornography, and the Internet (2002)

Challenged Materials: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights: 1989-;90 CD #61.2

Access to Library Resources and Services Regardless of Sex, Gender Identity, or Sexual Orientation: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights

Intellectual Freedom Principles for Academic Libraries: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights

Resolution on Threats to Library Materials Related to Sex, Gender Identity, or Sexual Orientation

Justification of Selection: Although this novel touches on difficult subject matter, it is a realistic depiction of daily teen struggles and honestly portrays a teen with mental health issues.

References:

GoodReads, Inc. (2015). Author profile. GoodReads. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/12898.Stephen_Chbosky

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

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