I teach teenagers, and because this book is consistently on the young adult best seller list, I felt it only right to give it a read. After all, if I’m recommending books to my students, I need to have read them, right?
The Perks of Being a Wallflower did not disappoint. Both charming and brutal, Chbosky captures the essence of high school. His protagonist, Charlie, conveys his story to us through a series of letters written to … someone. This first-person narrative device is especially appropriate because Charlie is wildly introverted. Through his letters, we are able to ascertain his thoughts on the events unfolding around him. We know him far better than anyone else in the novel, and that may be one reason behind his charisma.
Chbosky has delivered the ultimate outsider, but that outsider wins over a select group of kids, and as Charlie is accepted, we understand that these other teenagers take Charlie as he is, idiosyncrasies and all, which makes us love them as he loves them. If I may digress a bit, in Charlie, I think many of us see ourselves. Whether one is currently a teen or an old man like me, Charlie reminds us of some aspect of ourselves, and as he experiences triumphs here and there, we are triumphant with him. Of course, for most, the comparisons end there, as I will touch upon later.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower has been banned in many schools, and while I personally don’t believe in banning books, I will admit that this book gets a tad graphic. There is a lot of sex, a lot of drugs, and a lot of booze. The language is harsh, and homosexuality is prevalent. In other words, this book demands a certain level of maturity and perspective. Would I be comfortable recommending this book to a middle school student? Personally, I would not. Honestly, I wouldn’t even feel it appropriate for underclassman at the high school level. That being said, juniors and seniors could definitely handle it, and I would have no problem putting the books in their hands.
I won’t reveal the ending of the book to you – to do such a thing would be criminal. However, it caught me off guard, to be sure. I had pretty much made up my mind about Charlie’s aloofness. When the true cause is revealed … it shocked me.
I’m glad I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and it certainly deserves all the attention it’s garnered. While I don’t believe for a minute it should be banned, I do think it requires a certain amount of maturity that some students may not yet possess. Well-written that cuts to one’s emotional core, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an engaging read that will linger in the reader’s mind long after finishing it.