Book Review Blog, Episode Ten – The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Book Summary: The protagonist, Charlie, writes letters to an unknown recipient about his life during his freshman year of high school. Set in the early 90s, this book take a raw look at teenage life during the time period. Charlie is quiet and awkward, but he befriends two seniors, a male named Patrick, and a female named Sam. They take him to parties, eat lunch together, and basically mentor the shy 15-year-old. Charlie goes through a lot of trials and tribulations during his first year of high school – having a crush on Sam and hanging out with her and her boyfriend at parties, not letting others know that Patrick is gay and in a secret relationship with the football team’s quarterback, driving his sister to the women’s clinic to have an abortion, and dealing with his own issues and guilt about thinking he’s the reason his aunt died in a car wreck on Christmas sever years prior. The book ends shortly before Charlie begins his sophomore year of school.
APA Reference: Chbosky, S. (1999). The perks of being a wallflower. New York, NY: MTV Books/Pocket Books.
Impressions: A friend told me to read this book when I was a senior in high school. I don’t remember what I read back then, but I know this was not one I picked up that year. That’s one reason I chose it for this unit. I can see why this book has been challenged and landed on the ALA’s banned book list. There is profanity, sex, rape, drug and alcohol use by minors, ideas challenging religion, and a same-sex relationship. The story is written to really reflect teenagers, the way they talk and act, and their lifestyle, so I feel like it is an honest look into their lives. The subject matter is serious, but some kids and teenagers go through this stuff in their daily lives, and I feel like Perks can show them that they are not alone, and that they should not feel shame for who they are or some of the things they go through. If I had read this book as a 17-year-old, I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much as I did while reading it as a 30-year-old. I’m more mature to handle the content, and I enjoyed and appreciated this book. I looked up the person who told me to read it and told them that I finally did read the book, and it was nice to finally be able to talk with them about it.
Professional Review: Goldsmith, F. (1999). [Review of the book The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by S. Chbosky]. School Library Journal, June 1999. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/
Gr 9 Up. An epistolary narrative cleverly places readers in the role of recipients of Charlies [sic] unfolding story of his freshman year in high school. From the beginning, Charlies [sic] identity as an outsider is credibly established. It was in the spring of the previous school year that his best friend committed suicide and now that his class has gone through a summer of change, the boy finds that he has drifted away from old friends. He finds a new and satisfying social set, however, made up of several high school seniors, bright bohemians with ego-bruising insights and, really, hearts of gold. These new friends make more sense to Charlie than his star football-playing older brother ever did and they are able to teach him about the realities of life that his older sister doesnt [sic] have the time to share with him. 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 boyfriends [sic] 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.
Library Uses: This book would be good to showcase during banned book week, and have a discussion on why it has been challenged.