Dear Friend, I Would Die for You. But I Won't Live For You.

Stephen Chbosky. The Perks of Being A Wallflower. New York, NY: Pocket Books, 1999.

Maybe the Perks Aren't Enough: A Review

No one can argueexternal image 22628.jpg that high school is one of the toughest parts of a teenagers' lives. Not only are they struggling with classes, homework, and exams, they must also face all of life’s issues, such as drinking, drugs, parties, and sex…just to name a few. Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower gives us a first-hand account of all of high school’s challenges through the eyes of a fifteen-year-old outsider named Charlie. In a series of letters written to an anonymous correspondent, Charlie recounts his experiences of all the struggles and joys of high school. Though the purpose of the book is to show the readers the advantages of viewing the chaos of the adolescent world as Charlie did, it doesn’t set a great example of how a young person should live life.

Throughout the novel, Charlie plays the role of an observer. He pays close attention to what his friends do and what is going on in their lives. Though he learns a lot about how the world works through these observations, Charlie never experiences any of this by himself. Yes, Charlie is alive, but any reader can see that he’s not truly living. Charlie bases all his actions on the actions, thoughts, and feelings of his friends. He would do anything for any of his friends, but never does anything for himself.

“I would die for you. But I won’t live for you” (Chbosky 169). As Charlie wrote about these lines to his ‘friend’, he made an insight about what it means to actually participate in life. “I think that the idea is that every person has to live for his or her own life and then make the choice to share it with other people” (169). The problem with this, however, is that Charlie never actually starts living for his own life. He knows that he must do more to fully experience what it means to live, but he never changes. He never finds a way to be alive in the world.
Though Chbosky shows that sometimes being a wallflower has its perks, Charlie’s passive way of living life may not be the best example to show students. However, that doesn't mean that The Perks of Being a Wallflower isn't a worthy read; it is probably more appropriate to be an independent read for students.

Benefits and ways for teaching the book in the classroom:
“Every person has to live for his or her own life and then make the choice to share it with other people” (Chbosky 169). Most high schools often have to deal with the exact same issues, issues like drug and alcohol abuse, homosexuality, physical and verbal abuse, molestation. Students who experience any of these issues struggle with coming out in the open and talking to others. Many times they prefer to keep their struggles to themselves. Teaching The Perks of Being a Wallflower or suggesting that students read it independently, would not only allow the struggling teens to relate to the issues confronted in this book, but it would prove to them that they are not alone. Every person is entitled to live his or her own life but the conflict with that, especially in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, is that high school students don’t know how to express themselves freely without feeling like they are being judged or laughed at, no matter the issue. By being open and exposed to high school issues teachers have a chance to show students, like Charlie, that they have a choice to either be a follower or a leader.

With the permission from parents and the school administration, English teachers all around can form an activity where students can rally together in their school gym and form groups with individuals different from themselves. (This activity should be done after the students have read the book). An activity like this would allow the teacher to show students the importance of participating and talking with those different from them and just how much impact they can have on each other, negative or positive. It is giving a lot of students who may be similar to Charlie to express both their feelings and their thoughts. The book would have a positive impact on the student body. Being a teacher is more than just showing up at work get the work done and then go home. A teacher has a lot of impact on students. When teaching a book such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower, where so many social and domestic issues are addressed, the teacher can help students build their character and encourage to be themselves rather than just a wallflower like Charlie.

A couple of other ways to approach teaching a book such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower with such controversial issues could be having the students write letters about the issues going on within their school or creating journals. Each class period the students would be given a certain amount of time to just write; write what they feel, write what they're thinking, just simple things that might help students to open up. After the writing portion of the class, the teachers could give each student the opportunity to share what they wrote out loud if they feel comfortable doing so. Also, the letters could be written anonymously or signed and written to each other.

Writing these letters could also be a beneficial project for independent reading. If a student chooses to read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, he or she could write a series of diary entries or letters, like Charlie did, in response to the issues seen in the book or as an outlet to discuss the issues in his or her life or high school. Reading the book independently could be a positive way for students to face what is going on in their lives.


What to know about Stephen Chbosky:
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Author Stephen Chbosky
Stephen Chbosky was born on January 21, 1975 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He graduated from the University of Southern California and received his Bachelor for Fine Arts. His studied in the University's film and writing program, which he completed in 1992. Chbosky now writes screen plays; he is also a television writer as well as a stage writer. His first independent film which he wrote and also directed was, The Four Corners of Nowhere, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1995.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, was his first novel. The book was automatically very popular. In an interview with Ed Blank for Pittsburgh Live Online, Chbosky spoke about growing up in Pittsburgh, where The Perks of Bring a Wallflower, takes place. Chbosky said, “What I do know is that growing up in Pittsburgh, the only places a kid could go to see something different was the movie “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” and the coffee shop called The Beehive - both were very important.”

He enjoys writing for the young adult audience in particular, but he never intended this novel to be for adolescents. Due to the numerous amounts of controversial issues in the book he didn't think that it would be appropriate. However, in an interview with Marty Beckerman of wordriot.com, Chbosky explains that The Perks of Being a Wallflower will allow readers to relate with the issues and "find a common ground" with Charlie and his friends and the issues that they face within the book.


Some helpful videos:
The Perks of Being a Wallflower- "Infinite"
Arguably one of the most meaningful parts of the book- when Charlie expresses the way he felt with Sam and Patrick during the first experience in the Tunnel.

Challenge Day: If You Really Knew Me
This is a video of an MTV show that used to air that explains the type of activity a teacher could do with students after reading "The Perks of Being a Wallflower".



Additional Resources:
  • Feeling "Infinite" - Video of an excerpt from "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" when Sam, Patrick and Charlie first become close.
  • "The Fountainhead"- Find out more on "The Fountainhead" one of the influential books .
  • "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" Movie- If you want to read about the upcoming motion picture that has been created on the book.
  • Learning Through Listening - Ideas on ways to teach certain literature to young adults and the objectives of teachign them.
  • Music from The Perks of Being a Wallflower- Check out all of the songs names and listed in the book.
  • Anticipation Guide -Use the Anticipation Guide to get your students to answer honestly about the lives of teenagers.
  • Get a preview of Charlie's playlist -Show your students a preview (and a brief history) of Charlie's favorite song, Asleep by The Smiths
  • Time Warp -Use this link to show your students a piece of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
  • More 90s Music -Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana...one of Patrick's Favorites
  • Quotes from the Book - Take a look at some of the most memorable quotes and thoughts from the characters.
  • Suicide Prevention Visit the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance to learn about what to do if you're feeling depressed and/or suicidal.
  • Suicide Lifeline Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline if you need someone to talk to about your depression or suicidal thoughts.
  • SupportLine If you're dealing with confusion or having difficulties due to your sexual orientation, use SupportLine's website to find help.
  • Author Biography This will provide more in depth coverage on Stephen Chbosky.
--Natalie Klocko, Caitlin Dunn, and Cami DenHartigh.