The Perks of being a WallFlower by Simon Chbosky

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The Perks of being a WallFlower by Simon Chbosky

Plot Summary:

Charlie is a shy, highly intelligent teen who has just started his freshman year. He starts school with no friends because the previous year his best friend, Michael, killed himself. Charlie has a history of psychological problems that date back to the day that his Aunt Helen died. In his growing sense of isolation his flashbacks to this time become worse. Then he meets Patrick, an outgoing gay senior, and his equally outgoing stepsister Sam. Charlie admires their lack of fear and they enjoy Charlie’s intelligence and honesty that sometimes gives rise to profound statements. Charlie instantly has a crush on Sam, but she tells him that he is too young for her. Charlie is welcomed into their circle of friends and begins to learn how to participate in life instead of just watching it. 

Critical Evaluation: 

This coming of age novel, told in epistolary form, is written to an unknown person that Charlie has picked out to confide his inner most feelings to and only refers to as dear friend. It is never really clear whether Charlie ever actually mails the letters and so the letters feel more like journal entries than a form of communication in which it is possible that another person may respond. Charlie is a complicated character whose shyness and inability to act may be familiar to many teen readers. The Perks of Being a Wallflower rises above the usual coming of age story because it is a story within a story. There is the story that reflects the usual teenage anxieties about identity and the fear of what others will think of us, and then there is the story of Charlie’s psychological problems. Although there are hints throughout the novel, they are not really revealed until the very end.

Information about the author:

tephen Chbosky was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on January 25, 1972, to Fred, a former CFO consultant, and Lea, a tax preparer. He grew up in Upper St. Clair, graduating from the local high school. He received his Bachelor of the Fine Arts degree from the University of Southern California’s film writing program in 1992.

Chbosky is a screenwriter, television writer, and stage writer. His first film, The Four Corners of Nowhere, which he wrote the screenplay for and also directed, premiered at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival, the largest independent cinema festival in the United States. The film won Narrative Feature honors at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. According to an All Movie Guide plot description written by Sandra Brennan, The Four Corners of Nowhere is a “humorous film [that] attempts to explain the nihilistic attitudes and terminal ennui of the X-generation.” The film follows the lives, relationships, and opinions of a group of twentysomethings living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In addition to his honors for The Four Corners of Nowhere, Chbosky has been recognized for other films to which he contributed.   

He is the recipient of the Abraham Polonsky Screenwriting Award for his screenplay Everything Divided. Chbosky wrote the screenplay for the film version of the popular stage play, Rent, and he was the co-editor and contributor to another stage play, Sexaholic. His current project, Fingernails and Smooth Skin, is the story of a young couple whose longtime relationship is threatened by their foibles and infidelities. Chbosky was a participant in the Sundance Institutes Filmmakers’ lab. Chbosky is the editor of Pieces: A Collection of New Voices, a collection of fictional short-stories, and he is also the author of a book for a musical, Kept.

Reader’s Annotation:

Charlie is entering his freshman year of high school with no friends. His best friend killed himself the year before and now he feels isolated. Then he meets two outgoing high school seniors, Patrick and his stepsister Sam. They take Charlie under their wing and show him a different way to live.

Genre:

Realistic Fiction. LGBTQ themes.

Curriculum Ties:

N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

If you have ever felt shy, you may be able to relate to Charlie

Reading Level/Interest Age:

Grades 9 and up

Challenge Issues:

Language, sexual situations, LGBTQ issues, sexual abuse.

I would make sure that all material was purchased in accordance with my library’s collection development policy and make sure to keep a file containing positive reviews for books that I thought might be challenged. In the event of a challenge, I would actively listen to the parent’s concern and ask if they had read the book. I would then explain why the book had been added to the collection and provide with the reviews and a copy of the collection development policy. I would affirm that they are within their rights to limit what their children read, but that other parents also have the right to determine what their children can read. If all else failed, I would provide the parent with a reconsideration form.

Reasons for inclusion:

Great coming of age novel.

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