Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallfower

Standing on the fringes of life... offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.


In honor of Banned Books Week, I'm doing a guest post reviewing one of my favorite books -- and one of the most widely banned young adult books -- The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky.

Why was this book banned?
Honestly, why are any books banned? I'm not a huge fan of censorship. I think books should be available to everyone... at the right age of course. Once a child or person is emotionally and/or physically mature enough to handle the themes of a certain book, I don't think his or her school or library should make it unavailable.

Some of the reasons cited for banning The Perks of Being a Wallflower include: "Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Anti-Family, Offensive language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide."

What is The Perks of Being a Wallflower about?
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a young adult novel about a boy named Charlie that follows his freshman year at high school. The novel is told in epistolary form, that is, the whole book is a series of letters Charlie writes about his life to someone he addresses as "Dear Friend." Charlie has never met this person and the reader never finds out who this Friend is.

Charlie is a wallflower. He is shy and sometimes socially awkward, but he meets these two new people, Sam and Patrick, who become his friends and introduce him to new experiences in high school, like going to parties, becoming romantically involved with someone, and driving late at night with the windows down and feeling "infinite." Charlie makes an interesting relationship with a teacher at his school, who makes him read complex literature because he sees potential in Charlie.

Through all of these new people in Charlie's life, he grows up, deals with family issues, and discovers things about himself, all while trying to "participate" more in life.

Why do I love this book?
This book is one of my favorites because of how realistically it portrays people. The book doesn't condemn Charlie and his friends for some of the riskier behaviors they partake in, but it doesn't glorify them either. The Perks of Being a Wallflower really celebrates being special and different in ways that aren't always trendy or cool.

I also love Charlie as a narrator. He's so earnest and genuinely concerned about putting everyone else's problems first that he often overlooks himself and doesn't give himself a chance to live his own life. He's not passive in an annoying speak-up-for-yourself-already! kind of way, but instead he makes it really easy to like him and root for him. I'm so used to reading about characters who act impulsively and don't think about their actions first, so Charlie was a bid departure from that.

The writing is also beautiful. I have a quote underlined or highlighted on almost every other page. Although there is some material suited for older young adults, and the novel explores some sensitive and deep issues, I highly recommend it. If you enjoyed The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger or any of John Green's books, I think you'll love this one. And now I'll leave you with the last lines of the book (which I love, and won't spoil anything for you):

     I'm not sure if I will have time to write any more letters because I might be too busy trying to "participate."
     So, if this does end up being my last letter, please believe that things are good with me, and even when they're not, they will be soon enough.
     And I will believe the same about you.
Love always,

-- Renée