The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a series of letters written  by a fifteen-year-old boy describing experiences during his first year of high school.

His first letter, written on August 25, 1991, begins with this:  "Dear friend, I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn't try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could."

He goes on to say that he doesn't want the friend to try to figure out who the girl is that told him that, because if that happened, it might reveal who was writing these letters. He wants to remain anonymous. He uses an assumed name, and gives no return address.  He signs his letters "Love always, Charlie".

He says he just needs to know that "someone out there listens and understands and doesn't try to sleep with people even if they could have". He just needs to know that these people exist.

Charlie writes for an entire year. He tells of the suicide of his only friend, Michael, when they were in middle-school. He tells about his favorite aunt being killed in a car wreck when he was a child. Mostly, he writes about his life in present time; his home life, school, and his new best friends.

Though very intelligent, Charlie is shy and unpopular, but two seniors, Patrick and Sam, make friends with him, and soon he is a part of their group.

At first, Charlie thinks Sam is Patrick's girlfriend, and is relieved to find out she's not. She is his step-sister. Charlie has a major crush on Sam, and wants to ask her for a date, but not until he is old enough to drive.  He doesn't think it would be right to ask Sam to drive on a date.  So he is trying to not like her "that way".  Besides, she has told him that he is too young for her, and she has a boyfriend right now, anyway.

Charlie writes about all this to his friend, along with everything else going on in his life; his dates with Mary Elizabeth, finding out that Patrick is gay, and that he is secretly seeing Brad, a popular football player. 

And about his last night with Sam, before she leaves for the summer.

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower has been challenged and/or banned year after year in one place or another.

Complaints came from Virginia, New York, Texas, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio.

Most of the reasons have to do with the fact that the book deals with such things as drugs, alcohol, sex, homosexuality, and abuse. 

Young people are not given enough credit. None of these things are new to high school kids.They already know far more than most adults think they do.

This would be a great book to read and discuss, as it covers so many of the things that teens deal with all the time, whether parents want to believe it or not. In fact, parents would be wise to read the book themselves, so they could continue the discussion at home.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower has been called "obscene", "child pornography", and "vulgar".  It is not. It's realistic.

Highly recommended.

Source:  Marshall University Libraries

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