The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
by Stephen Chbosky
Fiction. 213 pp.
MTV Books. 1999.

Written in the form of letters, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming-of-age story that follows Charlie's freshman year as he begins to negotiate high school and new friendships and adolescence. The letter motif works well for this novel. I like how it creates an intimacy with the narrator and how it propels the plot forward when Charlie is able to feasibly skip over chunks of time and only convey those things that are truly important to understanding him.

By and large, I liked the book. I liked Charlie. I just can't say that I liked the twist that came at the end. Not that it was necessarily a twist, I guess, since I somewhat expected that revelation. But still, it really seemed to hit at an odd time and didn't quite feel right.

And I wonder how younger readers will take the book. I know that USA Today compares the book to classic works like The Catcher in the Rye and A Separate Peace, as indicated on the back cover. And I also know that the book shows up on a number of reading lists because it has a young protagonist. But a young protagonist doesn't make a book appropriate for younger readers. Of course, perhaps I'm mistaken. I mean, there must be something to it since it has apparently sold over 700,000 copies and is passed from teen to teen.

And really, I'm not surprised that it hit the Top 10 Challenged Books list in 2004 (for homosexuality, sexual content, and offensive language). Nor am I surprised that parents in Commack, New York, objected to it showing up on the optional summer reading list for incoming sophomores. Granted, I do wish that parents would actually start reading books before they object to them. Because the date rape that is listed as one of the objectionable scenes is really rather innocuous, especially when you consider Charlie's reaction to it.

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