Welcome to the Banned Library Banned Books Project where I am reading all 100 of the most banned and challenged books from 2000-2009. I started this project a few years ago and have done a few reviews here and there, but now I am going to buckle down and finish this with a more... let’s just call it consistency? Non-craptacular, maybe?
General spoiler rules apply. I may spoil something, I may not, so I’ll get it out of the way and tell you I think everyone should read “Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chobosky. A haunting epistolary novel told from the letters of a brilliant but confused young man named Charlie as he passes through his first year of high school, Perks of Being a Wallflower covers a wide range of themes such as homosexuality, child abuse, drug use, and simple anxiety. Charlie makes friends, falls in love and discovers things about himself, his family and others as the novel progresses. The reader is held by Charlie’s innocence being chipped away bit by bit to expose the raw nerve of humanity in us all, the secret sin of being a person. More than a high school coming of age story, Perks of Being a Wallflower is an important look into the mind of a confused teenage male as he wrestles with himself and his identity.
I have not read Perks of Being a Wallflower before now. The book was released my freshmen year in college and I was too busy making my own mistakes to read about Charlie’s. Also, my soon to be English Lit major self would have sneered down his pretentious, punk rock nose at the MTV Books imprint while he waved whatever he found important at the time in your face. I was kinda a dick back then, you guys.
The world of letters is daunting. A clear voice must be developed to tell a narrative with only the musings and observations of a young boy to guide the reader. The reader must trust the writer, not a god from on high reporting his findings but a young man telling us what he sees. Where Perks of Being a Wallflower succeeds is the voice of Charlie and his messages to us. Yes, the book gives an unapologetic look at homosexuality. Yes, the book tells us matter of fact repercussions and highs of drug and alcohol abuse and sex. Yes, the book can even glorify these choices. And it is allowed to because Charlie is also doing all of that. He does not care about homosexuality, so the book does not. He enjoys and feels pain over sex and drugs and drinking, and so does the reader by extension. By allowing the reader to trust Charlie, the book succeeds in every point the author wishes to make because Charlie believes it to be so. The creation of this non-character that gets filled in and by the end becomes whole is the book’s greatest achievement. The frank and unapologetic look at teenage life is just a byproduct.
Okay, I know somebody out there is going to call me lazy, but this book has been banned A LOT. That being said, there’s a bunch in there for people to get objectionable about. Here a short list of what goes on (also doubles as a list of things parents found objectionable):
And here’s a list of news articles you can read that tell you when and where the book was banned.
- Banned Books Awareness
- Chicago District 41
- school board of District 41 in Chicago voted 4-2 to ban the book
- Judy F’n Bloom came to town to repeal this one.
- Lori Derrico, an emergency room nurse whose daughter will attend Wharton next month, strongly objects to the choice. In a letter to school officials Monday, she said the book is not appropriate for freshmen and cited paragraphs that depicted sexual scenes, drug use and even one passage that mentioned sex with a dog. "My daughter did not know most of the things referenced ... and now, thanks to the mandatory reading, she knows all of these things,'' Derrico said. "She lost a big chunk of innocence and I am heartbroken over it."
- Marshall University List
So there we are, Perks of Being a Wallflower. Have you read this
book? Did you enjoy it? Why or why not? Did it remind you of your high school experience? Would you make the same choices Charlie made? Do you feel that Charlie’s home circumstance (or any of the other character’s, for that matter) made him a more believable character? What do you think Charlie will do for a living after high school/college?
Next week’s book will be a series of books, R. L. Stine's Goosebumps. I am not reading all of them, I don’t have that kind of time, but I did read one called Why I’m Afraid of Bees. We shall see.
Thanks for reading, now stay in and read a book.