The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Banned Books Challenge #4

“And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”

We all know the feeling when, no matter what else is going on, everything connects just for a minute.

Though Chbosky starts with a teen suicide and delves into some of the worst aspects of teenage life, he also deftly handles the magical moments that make life.

I started this book last night and I read it cover to cover. I could not stop. What kept me going was not the dramatic turns, but Charlie’s life as a whole- the good and the bad. I loved that his favorite book was the one he just finished. I related to that. Throughout, I had trouble understanding his emotional swings, but it made him more real all the same.

Even if the events in the book were meant to happen twenty years ago, they are still recognizable today. Sex is something that is a part of many teenagers lives. While some classics treat sex as a taboo that is part of their “experience”, The Perks of Being a Wallflower does not take such an antiquated stand. Sex, drugs, and sexuality are issues all the characters struggle with, as teens do today, not alone or on renegade adventures, but part of their day to day lives, together and apart. Is everyone having sex or using drugs? No, but some are. Just like in nearly every high school in America, I would wager. Chbosky conveys that shift in social norms with refreshing honesty.

This is the first book in the challenge that I had not previously read. Chbosky manages to write a thoroughly modern and extremely relevant coming of age story without being heavy handed. He does not disguise his admiration for other great novels that deal with finding oneself like Catcher in the Rye, On the Road, and even To Kill a Mockingbird. Like the intended audience, our narrator, Charlie, is reading all these classics as he is coming into his own. Through a series of letters to an unknown person, Charlie tells of his first crush, first kiss, personal struggles, and the difficulties his friends are experiencing. It is told brilliantly with humor and brutal honesty.

As to the challenges and bans, the content is certainly not G-rated by any means. Still, I am comforted to know this books is available to teenagers who might be struggling with real issues and feeling alone. Within the first couple pages we learn Charlie’s friend has killed himself and that kind of seriousness upfront is sure to frighten off the faint of heart. Anyone can stop reading at any point if they become uncomfortable. That is a choice and teenagers especially need to learn to make them.

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