Genre: Fiction, Bildungsroman
Synopsis: Told through a series of letters to an anonymous pen pal, The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows introverted narrator Charlie through his freshman year of high school. Set in Pittsburgh (my hometown, woot woot!) during the early 1990s, the novel explores many different themes of adolescence (friendship, sexuality, drug usage, introversion) through the eyes of the shy, unpopular, intelligent narrator.
Review: I have actually been meaning to get to The Perks of Being a Wallflower for quite some time now, so I was really excited when I saw that it had made it onto the banned/challenged book list. And I have to say, this book did not disappoint. Personally, I can usually gauge the success of a book based on how many pages I have dog-eared by the end. These pages contain quotes and passages that, for one reason or another, struck a chord with me. The Perks of Being a Wallflower had many, many pages dog-eared by the time I finished it. While some of these pages held the quotes that this book is well known for (“And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”), there were also quite a few pages that stood out to me simply because Chbosky summarized his character’s feelings in such genuine and relatable ways. For example, one of the last things that Charlie writes to his mysterious pen pal is the following:
“I think that if I ever have kids, and they are upset, I won’t tell them that people are starving in China or anything like that because it wouldn’t change the fact that they were upset. And even if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn’t really change the fact that you have what you have.”
I TOTALLY agree with Charlie on this one. I’ve even tried to put this exact feeling into words before and failed spectacularly. While I do believe that we should try to be thoughtful, altruistic people as much as possible, I also know that one of the most frustrating things to be told when you’re really upset is that others have it worse. Overall, The Perks of Being a Wallflower had many moments where I thought, “Yes! Exactly.” Which, in my book (pun intended) sums up to a great read. The evolving relationships Charlie has with his family and new friends make for some very heartwarming and heartbreaking moments (that feel all too real at times). And there’s a twist! I love a book with a good plot twist.
Reason for Ban/Challenge: From 2001-2014, The Perks of Being a Wallflower appeared on the American Library Association’s “Top Ten Frequently Challenged Book List” for seven different years. The reasoning was pretty predictable: book content includes drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit scenes, date rape, masturbation, religious viewpoints, suicide, nudity (SERIOUSLY? I don’t know how a book completely devoid of pictures can be challenged on the basis of nudity), and is unsuited for the age group. Overall, it’s a load of horseshit. I think the majority of teenagers would be positively impacted by this book, because of (not in spite of) the content and the way it is conveyed.
Bonus: I found a Buzzfeed article titled “19 Banned Books if They Were Made Appropriate” (http://www.buzzfeed.com/juliapugachevsky/banned-books-if-they-were-g-rated#.oh3oNwL0b). It’s definitely worth a look if you want a good laugh. And the author’s treatment of The Perks of Being a Wallflower was excellent: