A Time of No Reply


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

The first thing one will realize upon reading Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is its honesty. It is written by a freshman in high school who thinks too much and expresses himself far too little, the definition of a wallflower. It is written in the style of an epistolary, using letters to an unknown receiver.The protagonist, Charlie, lives in a town outside Pittsburgh and uses the letters he writes to work through his thoughts, emotions, and ideas. Because he enters high school without his best friend who committed suicide earlier in the year, he is forced to face the beginning of his high school experience alone, only with his thoughts. It isn’t until he meets a couple of upperclassmen by chance that he begins to enjoy high school a bit more. Patrick and Sam are step-siblings and best friends who introduce him to a new kind of existence. He has friends and a purpose, but with both he experiences high points and low. Through the new-found friendships he inevitably finds himself. This book is eye-opening and inspiring, but it is also raunchy and realistic. It should not be read and analyzed from a cynical viewpoint, but instead from a complimentary viewpoint in order to see what is adjacent to what the reader might know or understand. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” exhibits what high school can be and is for many adolescents. It touches on the drug counterculture and abuse, suicide awareness, domestic abuse, and psychological issues. It is a necessity for young people to have in the repertoire, not only to meet Charlie, but to help grasp the intricacies of life and its development.
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Recommendations for Teachers
It wouldn’t be realistic to expect the introduction of Perks to your students to not raise controversy whatsoever. However, not teaching the novel altogether would deny students the opportunity to read a truly honest book that brings up many ideas that could be in the lives of these students everyday: parties, sex, abuse, drugs, drinking, etc. By teaching Perks, students will recognize that they are not alone in some instances they may be experiencing, and the book will allow discussion of real life activities that may be difficult to address in general. These topics may be uncomfortable to talk about amongst students, but this does not undermine their importance in life. Although the book is very open, students, as well as parents, may not be ready to accept that these activities are occurring in schools. Permission forms would be an acceptable approach for students reading Perks. In addition, the book may be more appropriate for upper class students (grades 11 and 12) as opposed to underclassmen. It would be more sensible for older grades to read the book because they are already aware of the activities that high school exposes students to. Younger grades may not be as capable as older students to address these issues openly and maturely, or may have not yet been exposed to such ideas. It would be more advisable to wait until these students are older.

Before introducing this book to students, it is important to address the issues that occur within it: ranging from homosexuality to molestation to abuse to drugs to drinking to suicide. By talking about these issues to students before hand, they will be mentally prepared to read about them. Discussing these issues prior to introducing the book is a good step, especially since many occur every day in high schools. Warning students that these ideas are going to be addressed is a first step to take, so that those who are truly uncomfortable with the subjects may read something else. If parents get involved and ask why these ideas are being discussed, it is advisable to take a calm approach and talk to them about the merits you believe the book holds. You could explain to the parents why you believe the book to be important subject matter. It gives honest depictions of scenes that occur in high schools today, and helps students understand that they are not alone in the things they are feeling. This book may help those that are internally suffering to find help, or simply just comfort them in the confusion they are feeling during this time of their life. If warning of the parents via permission form, along with addressing its importance to those parents showing further concern is not enough, then assigning the student another book is advisable.


About Name of Author

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Stephen Chbosky is a novelist, screenwriter and film director born and raised in Pennsylvania. The origins of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” Began in 1994 when Chbosky was writing a different novel and produced the sentence “I guess that’s just one of the perks of being a Wallflower” and realized that that line described the type of character he wanted to create and flesh out for readers. After several years of working and formulating a storyline he released “The Perks of Being A Wallflower” to great acclaim and controversy. Chbosky claims that the book is “semi-autobiographical,” he can relate to the character of Charlie in some aspects but his actual life was quite different from Charlie’s. Chbosky is also well known for writing the screenplay for the film version of the popular broadway musical Rent and for writing, co-creating and producing the CBS television series Jericho. Chbosky currently resides in Los Angeles, California.

Multimedia (Video or Audio)

Author Stephen Chbosky reads a letter he received from a young reader whose life was changed after reading "The Perks of Being A Wallflower." This letter confirms that this book does indeed have a place in the classroom and can deal with real life issues and the young students who struggle with them.



Additional Resources:

Ray Radwanski, Megan Motz and Abby Franks