Saturday, September 25, 2010

Banned Books Week: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky was listed as the third most challenged book during the year 2009. The reasoning for the challenges are listed as: homosexuality, sexually explicit, anti-family, offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, suicide, and drugs.

The book is about a 15-16 year old boy named Charlie who is just entering his freshman year of High School. It's coming of age as he enters this more adult world and deals with his emotions and physical issues. You start off with this boy who is writing letters to someone who is never revealed. In fact, from the very beginning Charlie makes it very clear that he has no intention of revealing himself to the recipient of the letters and he has changed all of the names in the letters.

Charlie is a little bit of an odd ball; he's intelligent and observant and tends to stand on the outskirts of things without really participating. This year, his freshman year, he's urged to change that- to participate. I've read a lot of reviews on this book, mainly negative ones, because I always want to see if I agree with them on anything. One review discussed how Charlie wasn't the odd ball because he would've never been accepted into a clique like he is in the book. Another said this is just another whiney book about being a 'loser'.

Charlie begins to participate as best as he can and is accepted into a small clique. They don't seem to be incredibly popular and somewhat the hippie group out of the school. The people in the group accept Charlie but don't seem to totally understand him. Each letter, told from Charlie's honest perspective, gives his insight to everyone.

He's incredibly innocent and seems somewhat young for a 15-16 year old. But through out the story you see him growing, becoming more accustomed to being around people. More comfortable with the way his life is changing. He experiences much that teenagers experience and honestly describes it all.

This was another comment I saw from people: That his experiences were too old for his age and seemed fake. Allow me to say this: When I was in 8th grade someone I knew committed suicide (Charlie has a friend commit suicide at the same age). I knew people who were dating, having sex, and doing drugs by the time I was in High School. It does happen. This is, for the majority of High School students, a reality. So sorry people who are challenging this book, you're wrong, this is perfectly suited for the age group.

The supposive anti-family atmosphere? Charlie struck me as a child who had some of the most clearly displayed affection for his parents and siblings. He seemed to adore his family much more then most typical teenagers do (who are always fighting with their siblings or hating their parents). The only point where I think the challengers could point a finger and cry "Anti-Family!" is when the book begins to discuss the less then desirable past for the family. Some people were beaten by their parents, others smacked around, but you know what? In the 1960's or earlier that was somewhat common. The more serious undertone, which I won't get to, is a sad and grim reality that does exist in the world.

Through the entire book you want to know what happens to Charlie next and you wonder, over and over, what is wrong with Charlie? What is this bad past he keeps hinting at? What traumatic experience caused him to have this happen to him? By the end of the book it is revealed and as I said, it's a grim and sad reality that does exist in the world.

To me, I feel like if we pretend bad things don't happen it won't make them go away. It will still happen. I think it's better to know of it, because then maybe we can have the passion to try and stop it from occurring again.

This book was definitely not one of the most cheerful books I have read. But I take comfort in the fact that this sweet and shy creature known as Charlie seems to be okay by the end.

I don't believe this is as 'coming of age' as The Catcher in the Rye (another continuously challenged and/or banned book) but I still think it is worth the read and people should take a stab at it. Should it be banned? No. Never. Why would you ever try to ban a book?

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