Growing Up Charlieexternal image perks.jpg

A wiki-review and source guide for all you need to know about:
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
by Stephen Chbosky (Review 6)

The Book:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Stephen Chbosky
MTV Books/Pocket Books, New York, 1999.

Dear Friend, a Review:

"You're a freak, you know that? Everyone says so. They always have."
"I'm trying not to be."

Welcome to the world of Charlie, the 15 year old titular wallflower of Stephen Chbosky's coming of age young adult novel, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower." Controversial and provocative, the book has been banned by many schools and is perennially on the American Library Association's list of most frequently challenged books.

Written as a collection of letters from Charlie to an unnamed person, the story touches on various turbulent issues in a young adult's life. From the beginning, the reader learns that Charlie is dealing with some powerful topics, including the recent suicide of his only friend and a recent spell at a mental facility following the death of his beloved Aunt Helen. Soon after school begins, it becomes apparent Charlie will not be part of the popular clique. Charlie is socially awkward (as are many teens), and his various attempts to participate leave him confused, frustrated, depressed. Luckily, he is adopted by a group of other "outsiders" who go to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show every Friday, and soon provide a way for Charlie to "fully participate", as recommended by his beloved English teacher.

There have always been greasers, hippies, losers, goths, nerds,misfits and outcasts. Chbosky, through Charlie, allows the reader see the world through their eyes. The book is about moments and being as much alive within each moment as possible.

Though regarded by some as "Catcher in the Rye' for Gen Y," Chbosky's novel is a good book, but not a great book. Chbosky seems to have taken the "throw everything against the wall and see what sticks" approach in this novel. Charlie manages to encounter almost every coming of age issue in the span of one school year. Awkwardness, self-doubt, drug and sexual experimentation, abusive relationships, teen pregnancy, bullying, homosexuality, suicide, depression, homophobia, and peer pressure are all part of Charlie's roller-coaster freshman year. The wide variety of topics covered ensures that most, if not all teen readers will find something that they can relate to.

Charlie's letters are eye-opening and always completely honest, whether he is describing his first beer party, or explaining masturbation and his feelings about this new-found activity. Charlie is a wallflower who observes people and feels very deeply about the experiences occurring around him.

Love Always, a Guide for Teachers:

This book has frequently topped the ALA Most Frequently Challenged Book list, most recently in 2009 (ALA). The content of this novel, while not considered a challenging read for 9-12 students, provides an in-depth, first person look at several controversial topics. Teen sex, drug use, physical abuse, excessive drinking, and homosexuality are all discussed. The topics are, for the most part, explored and explained by the "narrator", providing a very touching and real perspective of these issues to teens today. Including this book in the year's curriculum requires a teacher to garner the support of her building administration and curriculum director, as well as properly preparing parents for the upcoming topic. An example of what happens when a teacher lacks such support can be viewed Here.

This would be an excellent choice to include in after-school/extracurricular programming, such as a Book Club. This would give the teacher a way to participate and lead an after school activity (often mandated by the Administration), as well as presenting "Perks" in a small group discussion format. Introduced in this way would be one way around a "permission battle" within a regular-education environment.

"Perks" is an ideal topic for instruction to coincide with school policy instruction (inclusion or bullying), or, for the really brave, use as the first book of the semester. What a way to grab student's attention promptly and begin the year with a bang! Topics and activities could include:
  • Point of view
  • Controversial reading/Banned books
  • Comparison reading (ie., follow up with Catcher in the Rye)
  • Response and/or advice writing (have students create advice responses)
  • Personal/Reflection journaling (using quotes from the book)
  • Create "mixtapes" or soundtracks for a possible movie

Teachers who chose to use this book will benefit from allowing adequate time for students to reflect and process what they have read. Round table and small group discussion, as well as reflective journaling allows for processing and comprehension as well as providing the teacher with priceless insight into the the minds of their students. With the right support and procedures, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a thought-provoking and culturally rich piece of Young Adult Literature to include in your curriculum.

Feeling Infinite? All about the Author:

external image RENTMoviePremiereZiegfeld048-vi.jpgStephen Chbosky grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and graduated from the University of Southern California's Filmic Writing Program. His first film, The Four Corners of Nowhere, premiered at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival and went on to win Best Narrative Feature honors at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. He is the recipient of the Abraham Polonsky Screenwriting Award for his screenplay Everything Divided as well as a participant in the Sundance Institute's filmmakers' lab for his current project, Fingernails and Smooth Skin. Chbosky lives in New York.

"The Perks" of the Web:

Creative Book Trailer:

Unique Fans, Unique Expressions:


Telling the story through Art:

Locating Charlie:

A Mixed Tape - Additional Resources:

Rocky Horror - All you need to know about the Rocky Horror Picture Show

Banned Books - The ALA's List, Resources, and More

Chbosky's Poem - A sample of the depth and controversy within "Perks"

A to Z Teachers Stuff - Discussion regarding permission slips, including a sample letter to parents

Music & Lit – The music and literature referenced in the book

Penn State Football – A closer look at Charlie’s brother’s school life

Wallflower What? – Urban Dictionary’s Wallflower Definition

Love Always,

-Bill, Debie, and Aaron

The Sources:
//Picture//- Photo of Chbosky
//Chbosky// - The Book and the Man
A Review – Read it
Chbosky's Inspiration – Looking deep at the Author
About the Book – Summary and Review with Resources

View this wiki-review in its original format here: //Original Wiki//