Friday, May 14, 2010

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Charlie is a high school freshman, and he sees the world a little differently. As he begins his high school career, he is still getting over his best friend's suicide the year before. He feels things deeply, he sees things deeply, but he is a boy in a bubble, so sweet and childlike that he's almost not of this world -- but when he does cry, he just can't stop.

No wonder that Charlie is an outcast at school. Then, a group of unconventional seniors take him under their collective wing. Soon, he is learning about punk rock and the Rocky Horror Picture Show, finding out what it's like for his best friend, who is gay but has to keep his relationship completely secret. Charlie, too, has a secret.

A slim, fast, fantastic read, The Perks of Being a Wallflower's beauty is all in the narrator, a lost kid who sees way too much.

Teachers with struggling readers have used this one in the classroom, and I've been curious about it for a long time because of comparisons to this and A Catcher in the Rye.

Bibliotherapeutic value: The homosexuality in this book is treated with empathetic care; one the one hand, Charlie is completely accepting, giving a vision of a non-judgemental world. On the other, the culture of the school promotes sameness, making it necessary to hide what should be a pretty simple romance -- all kinds of pain is created by this situation. Then there's Charlie's shocking secret. The entire book pivots on the dysfunction that occurs when they are forbidden to express what should be expressed. A deep, brilliant little book.

Chbosky, Stephen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: MTV, 1999. 

ISBN 0-671-02734-4. $12.

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