The Perks of Being a Wallflower: A Journey Into Coming of Age....
Stephen Chbosky. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York, NY: Pocket Books, 1999.

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"I just wish that God or my parents or Sam or my sister or someone would just tell me what's wrong with me. Just tell me how to be different in a way that makes sense."
Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an easy to read novel about the complicated life of ninth grader, Charlie. This novel dives into the many dilemmas and events in Charlie’s life, especially his transition into the high school life. Charlie expresses his complex thoughts and tells readers about his life through letters he writes to an unidentified person during his first year of high school. These letters are intimate, sincere, and illuminating. Charlie is a quiet, intellectual boy who in some ways is an outcast. He writes about falling in love and the friends he makes.

Many high school students can relate to and learn from the various challenging situations Charlie is faced with. He struggles throughout this novel and his life. He loses a family member as a child and a close friend as an adolescent. Losing a loved one is never easy, but it can be especially troublesome during these crucial years of development. Charlie subjugates these obstacles and others.

We also learn from the struggles of other characters. Many of the situations mirror real life events or happenings at traditional high schools. This book engages readers while opening their eyes to the types of situations they may be faced with and possible consequences for choices they might make.

One of Charlie’s best friends, Patrick, is homosexual. Patrick battles depression, experiments with drugs, is harassed by his peers and even gets into a fight because of his sexuality. Adolescence is a time of self discovery and maturation. Homosexual students are often discriminated against and may struggle with telling others and being comfortable with their sexuality. The struggles and choices that Patrick and other characters are faced with are very realistic. All adolescents are faced with tough choices and put in similar situations to the characters. Patrick is harassed for his being homosexual and Charlie stands up for him. This novel teaches to stand up for what is right, to apologize when you are wrong or hurt someone, and to never give up.

In this novel, Charlie experiments with drugs and alcohol. The content of this novel is controversial. Although some may find the content to be offensive, the truth of the matter is that it deals with real life problems that adolescents are exposed to no matter what. This novel teaches about the dangers of drug use. For example, when Charlie takes LSD, he ends up in the emergency room after being found asleep in the snow.

During Charlie’s first year of high school, he falls in love, has his first kiss and first date. He even makes the mistake of hurting a young lady’s feelings. Every adolescent can relate to a first dance, first kiss or having feelings for someone. Charlie shares his stories of love and friendship and teaches readers valuable lessons about the trials and tribulations one must go through in order to reach their potential as a person, and as a student. This uniquely written novel is one that students will really enjoy and be able to apply to their own lives.

Advice for Teachers

The Perks of Being a Wallflower has made its way into the top ten most banned books among high schools. While this book is highly criticized for its mature content, it contains valuable insights into the life of a high school freshman. Parents are very skeptical about teaching the book in America's classrooms because of this mature content. Students are not as naive as their parents believe them to be and this is why we find it appropriate that The Perks of Being a Wallflower be taught in today's classrooms. Here is some advice for teachers hoping to teach this book:

  1. Take it slowly. Students will require much more time to understand this book than your average young adult novel. Pause on concepts that are difficult to grasp and allow students to take them in. Also, some parts of the book may take longer to get through than others because of their complicated ideas.
  2. Have discussions. Have your students discuss the book in small groups and as a class. This will allow them to learn their classmates perspectives on the book and understand it themselves. Then, when it comes time to have a class discussion your students will feel more confident in their ideas about the book because they were able to explain and discuss them with classmates.
  3. Have your students write letters as Charlie. Let your students take on their imagination and have them pretend to be Charlie writing to his friend. They can write about an event that occurs in the book or create one of their own.
  4. Let your students pretend to be Charlie's friend. Have them respond to Charlie. Students can respond to Charlie's questions/confusion about homosexuality, suicide, dating, drugs, etc. This will help them to also better understand these concepts themselves.
  5. Have students act out particular scenes. This allows outgoing students to get up in front of the class and try to feel and convey what the characters in The Perks of Being a Wallflower feel. At the same time it enables shy students to view the depiction and better understand the scenes of the book without leaving their comfort zones.
  6. Be open. This point is most important because students will have many questions and your answers will be crucial. Make sure that you understand everything in the book yourself and that you can convey the ideas in the book to your students.

When Handling Parent Opposition to the Book:

  1. Remind parents that their children are dealing with many of the obstacles presented in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. This book will help their children to better understand and overcome these obstacles. High school students tend to not want to consult anyone about their problems and reading this book can help them to deal with many of life's challenges on their own or even give them the courage to ask someone for help.
  2. This book can be a comfort to students. Students that are thinking about suicide, trying drugs, or that think they might be homosexual are likely to find solace in this novel. This allows them to seek help without having to feel embarrassed or ashamed.
  3. Allow parents to take home a copy of the book or feel free to read their child's book. This book might allow the parents and their children to connect and to talk about the issues presented in the book.

The Author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
Stephen Chbosky
Stephen Chbosky

Stephen Chbosky, originally being a screen, stage and television writer and editor also is the author of the disputed novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. As a matter of fact, Chbosky had intended to have a career in screenwriting, however he came to write this novel and have great success in writing it. Even though this is Chbosky’s first novel, it is also one of his most well known works.

Stephen Chbosky was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1972 to a fairly well to do family; however, he was raised just ten minutes outside of Pittsburgh in a more rural neighborhood called Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania. He eventually went on to study filmic writing at the University of Southern California. There he received a Bachelor’s of the Fine Arts degree in filmic writing in 1992 and had wrote his first screenplay of The Four Corners of Nowhere in 1995. Even though Chbosky had moved to the west coast for his college career, his hometown of Pittsburgh became the ultimate inspiration for the setting of his next big work, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

There are several specific places to which the character, Charlie, goes to with his friends or activities that he partakes in, which reflect some of Chbosky’s memories in Pittsburgh. In an interview Chbosky claims to had some great experiences going to the local coffee shop or going to see the “Rocky Horror Picture Show”. It is a performance which the Charlie goes to and watches every Friday night and his close friends also are some of the performers in the show. Throughout the book, Charlie also makes many references to the tunnel that him and his friends drive through, and his feelings of feeling absolutely “infinite” as they ride through the tunnel in his friend’s truck listening to his favorite song. Chbosky also claims to have fond memories of the Fort Pitt tunnel from his years growing up near Pittsburgh. It becomes evident that several of Chbosky’s memories in his hometown, resonate in the setting of the novel. Furthermore, Chbosky is known to be very involved in fighting for Gay’s rights, which is also a pertinent theme that the novel. Stephen Chbosky reflects some his personal experiences and beliefs in his work.

Chbosky went on to write several other screenplays from original stage plays or musicals. He even directed in some of these films as well. Chbosky won honors for a handful of films and plays, not to mention he participated in different film festivals for his films, Fingernails and Smooth Skin and The Four Corners of Nowhere. His screenplay, Everything Divided won the Abraham Polonsky Screenwriting Award, and he also helped in writing the screenplay for the popular musical, Rent.

With The Perks of Being a Wallflower being one of the most popular and widely-read novels, it was also very controversial to the point of being banned from certain high schools all across America. Due to the banning, this made Chbosky somewhat disappointed. Even though the novel contains many pertinent problems that many adolescents face and can relate to, he did not intend for the novel to be considered young adult literature. He believes that the public has focused far too much on the immorality of the book, than on the message he is trying to convey through Charlie’s character. One of the main purposes of the book is to tell Charlie’s unknown friend or the reader that “even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there” (Chbosky 211). This profound statement is what Stephen Chbosky wants the reader to focus on rather than the various debated issues to which most will never come to an agreement. Chbosky desires for the reader to understand the message and meaning behind the story.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Soon to be a Major Motion Picture ?

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There are no definite facts, but information has leaked out that a movie is in the making for The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The IMDb (Internet Movie Database) Web site expects the movie to release sometime during 2012. Popular actress, Emma Watson from the Harry Potter films, and Logan Lerman, known for his films Percy Jackson and the Olympians and 3:10 to Yuma, are expected to take part in the movie's cast. According to Vulture, an online media news source, Summit Films is hoping to obtain the rights to the film "which Stephen Chbosky will direct himself from his own script".

On a different note, throughout The Perks of Being a Wallflower Charlie references the song "Asleep" by The Smiths. He refers to it as a winter song and that it makes him feel "infinite." Listen for yourself (located right). Does it make you feel infinite?

"And in that moment, I swear we were infinite."

Additional Resources:
  • Suicide Prevention Information on how to deal with thoughts of suicide and a number to call if you're having suicidal thoughts.
  • Coming Out Tips on how to come out as homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.
  • Chbosky Quotes Great quotes from The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
  • More On The Author Read the biography and find out other facts about Stephen Chbosky.
  • Other Works Find out other books written by Stephen Chbosky.
  • Preview Wallflower Check out this video to preview what The Perks of Being a Wallflower is like.
  • Author Interview Stephen Chbosky answers ten personal questions about himself!
  • Interview 2 Stephen Chbosky explains his reasons for writing The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
  • I Love Libraries Chbosky exclaims his love for libraries in this YouTube video!
  • The Movie Watch this video to learn more about The Perks of Being a Wallflower movie.
  • Banned Book!!! The Perks of Being a Wallflower has been banned in some areas, check out why.

--Devonte Baldwin, Karlye Byrnes, Mariah Farkas, Emily Mayer

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