Tag Archives: Perks of Being a Wallflower

Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

(This book review is about 12 years overdue)

Let’s set the record straight: this blog post is a review of the booknot the recently released film. However, a comparison review of the film will be written and published in the extremely near future.

So, let’s get started.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky received mixed reviews when it was first published in 1999 (check out the old Kirkus Review and Publisher’s Weekly reviews to get a feel for the arguments). Some dubbed the main character, Charlie, a Holden Caulfield rip-off, others felt Perks was simplistic but engaging for younger readers, and still others identified Charlie and his friends as memorable characters. Regardless, enough readers rooted for Perks in 1999…and now it is here to stay.

Maybe its because the novel is rife with early 90’s music and cultural references, but I save a soft spot for Perks.

The book is a collection of letters that “Charlie” writes anonymously to an unknown older student at the same high school. In the first letter Charlie reveals that he must enter high school following the suicide of his best (and only) friend. Fortunately, Charlie’s isolation does not last forever: enter best friends (and step-siblings) Patrick and Sam. Patrick is the former “popular” currently “less popular since coming-out” guy, while Sam is the unattainable but damaged object of Charlie’s love. The letters follow Charlie through adventures (sometimes disastrous misadventures) with his new friends, as well as his internal struggles with anxiety, depression and a deeply buried secret.

Why did this book become a phenomenon that has lasted for over 12 years? I don’t think its necessarily the plot or the concept of the story, but the characters and Charlie’s plainly written and absolutely honest narrative.

I disagree with the assumption that Perks is easily liked by teenagers. I think many people dislike this book, and rightfully so. They don’t relate to Charlie or his friends, and they don’t enjoy the unconventional narrative or writing style. Despite this, I remember falling hook, line and sinker for the book the first time I read Perks, and I have since recommended it to countless individuals. Just as I am recommending it to you readers. Give it a try: I’m interested to hear what you think. Even if you disagree with your neighborhood librarian.

-Signing off, Jenny Barrows (who sometimes pauses to read the simpler narratives in life)

Vagabond Librarians Day 7 (Kind of Day 8): Banned Books Retaliate

This week is the American Library Association’s (ALA) Banned Books Week.

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community – librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types – in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular. (ALA-BBW)

As you have all probably noticed, the books of Calarco Library recently banned us. Perhaps, they are retaliating in honor of their brethren who have suffered mightily throughout years of challenges, burnings and bannings. Or maybe not, but still, a fantastic and morally upstanding theory.

Banned Books Week is celebrating the freedom to read from September 30 – October 6 this year. The annual event highlights not only the rising problem of censorship, but also the fun fact that many popular books (and books that you read for English class) have been banned or challenged before. Huff Post Books generated an interactive infographic demonstrating the 10 most challenged books of 2011 (and why they were challenged). See screen shot example below.

Screen Capture – Huff Post Books Infographic

Courtesy of Huff Post Books

Raise your hand if you have read The Hunger Gamesexactly.

You may be asking yourself, “What is the difference between a banned and challenged book?” You may not be asking yourself at all, but DON’T WORRY, I asked for you.

A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. Due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection. (ALA)

Below are some challenged and banned books alongside the reasons why they were challenged/banned (all information from the ALA BBW Timeline):

  • SlaughterHouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut: “The Island Trees (NY) School District School Board removed the books in 1976 because they were ‘anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic and just plain filthy.'”
  • To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee: “Published in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird ranks among the true classics of modern American literature and explores complex themes of justice and compassion. It has also faced significant controversy due to its consideration of challenging issues such as rape and racial inequality.”
  • The Giver – Lois Lowry: “In 2003, The Giver was challenged as suggested reading for eighth-grade students in Blue Springs, MO, where parents called the book ‘lewd’ and ‘twisted’ and pleaded for it to be tossed out of the district…Lowry’s novel for young readers has frequently attracted objections due to its ‘mature themes’ including suicide, sexuality, and euthanasia. The Giver received the Newbery Medal in 1994.”

Interestingly, books that are often banned are 1. some of the best and most innovative works published, 2. filled with themes of freedom of information, acceptance, equality and etc., and 3. riddled with social commentary.

Irony, much?

Lastly, let’s highlight a frequently challenged book that is also being widely released in theaters this weekend (finally!): The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.

n 2009, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower was challenged on the Wyoming, OH high school district’s suggested reading list and restricted to juniors and seniors at the William Byrd and Hidden Valley high schools in Roanoke, VA. In a complaint that grew to include scores of young adult titles and attracted significant media attention, it was also challenged at the West Bend, WI Community Memorial Library as being “obscene or child pornography.” The library board ultimately voted to retain the book, “without removing, relocating, labeling, or otherwise restricting access.” Published in 1999, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” contains references to drug use, homosexuality, and suicide, and has drawn comparisons to “Catcher in the Rye” as an iconic novel of adolescent alienation.

Since all of us who raised our hands are considered to be full of wild-eyed ideas (according to those who challenge The Hunger Games), we might try doing nice things for Banned Books Week in the hopes that the Calarco Library books will quell their righteous protest. So…read a banned book! Visit your public library and check out a banned book (and support any events that may be happening this week)! And of course…come visit the Calarco Library and check out one of our fabulous Kindles or Kindle Fires. I promise, they are riddled with banned and challenged books.

Signing off, Jenny Barrows (who has always and will always love banned books more than any others)