WEEK 2 PART 2, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Chbosky, S., (1999). The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York, NY: Gallery Books.
This classic idea of alienation and peer rejection comes into full swing in this novel as it dives into Charlie’s first year of high school. Charlie, who is still struggling from his best friend’s suicide and other traumatic incidences of his past, finds it difficult to make friends, until he meets two seniors named Sam and Patrick. Once the group clicks, Charlie is in for a ride as he tries drugs, alcohol and even relationships for the first time. Throughout the ups and downs of this experience with his new friends and some trouble with family members, he emerges as a more mature man ready to take on the world and be a part of life!
Keywords: letters; freshman year; close friends; confusing feelings
What I Think:
After hearing all the hype about this book and movie, I was excited to dive into the literature a few years later. The more I read, the more I realized how relatable this book was to any and all of us. Even as a graduate student years beyond high school, I can still look back and bring up similar situations and confusing feelings similar to Charlie’s experience. This reliability is the reason I would recommend this book to young adults. The book is relatable to young adults by allowing the audience to experience Charlie’s life as he develops friendships and experiences unwanted feelings. Charlie has a hard enough time as a freshman student, let alone when his emotions get mixed up and confusing. “And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be” (p. 2). This frustration and confusion can be seen throughout the book. Another quote that stood out to me said, “I turned around and walked to my room and closed my door and put my head under my pillow and let the quiet put things where they are supposed to be” (p. 28). Even today, I could repeat this quote after an exhausting day, as if I’ve lost all control of the good and bad around me. I think this is a feeling many young adults experience as they are trying to sort through life. With many more quotes like those, this book is an excellent inspiration and outlet for young adults everywhere.
What the Experts Say:
MTV Books has published The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012; Gr 9 Up) with an eye-catching movie-poster cover featuring the trio of stars (a hardcover edition with the original jacket has also been reissued). Written as letters to an unidentified “Dear Friend,” 15-year-old Charlie’s straightforward narrative is filled with innocence and insight. Still reeling from the recent suicide of his best friend, Charlie skates alone on the edge of the social pond, until he is reeled in by two independent-minded seniors who value him for who he is (in fact, it’s Patrick who identifies him as a wallflower, explaining, “You see things. You keep quiet about them. You understand”). Though it’s a tough year—filled with family crises (including his sister’s unwanted pregnancy), ever-changing relationships (his head-over-heels feelings for Sam, his first girlfriend, a best friend who is gay), exposure to drugs and alcohol, and his own breakdown and recovery (sparked by difficult revelations about his childhood)—Charlie emerges all the stronger, ready to step out of his role as observer and participate in life. Events both heart-wrenching and high-flying are described with honesty, humor, and a spot-on adolescent perspective. YAs will find much to relate to here, as they begin to explore and ponder their own place in the world. This edition ends with a reading group guide, and a list of discussion questions is available at Simon & Schuster’s website. Teens may also be interested in exploring some of the works that are recommended to Charlie by his teacher (each of which affects him deeply), including J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.
Fleishhacker, J. (2012). The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Other Tales of Teen Angst and Alienation [Review]. School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2012/08/collection-development/read-watch-alikes/the-perks-of-being-a-wallflower-and-other-tales-of-teen-angst-and-alienation/
This book is written in an interesting format. The entire book is structured as if Charlie was writing letters to an anonymous person. Therefore, there could be many interesting activities used with this type of book and format. First of all, students could write and even send their own letters to an anonymous person, detailing their everyday lives. The students could send the letters to a pen pal, former teacher, long distance friend or even relative. Another activity using this book that could be fun for students would be to have them write letters actually responding to Charlie. Each student in the classroom would pretend he or she received one of the letters in the book, then must respond to Charlie giving him advice and expanding on what he wrote. Both of these activities would give students practice with their informal writing as well as setting up and formatting a friendly letter.