Perks of Being a Wallflower

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Publication Information
Author(s): Stephen Chbosky 
Publisher: MTV Books/Pocket Books
Release Date: February 1, 1999

Genre: Coming of Age/Fiction

Reading Level: Moderate

Target Age: 14+

Grade Levels: 9-12

Gender: Male/Female

Description of Novel
This book really wasn’t my type of book, but I can see how teens can relate to it. The novel addresses a lot of mature themes that are relatable to teens that go anywhere from abortion, to suicide, to homosexuality, to Charlie’s repressed memories of being sexually abused, and all kinds of things in-between. The novel is about Charlie coming of age, and with that comes lots of sex, drugs, and alcohol. In the novel Charlie drinks, smokes, and does some drugs, however, he still has many redeeming qualities. He is always honest about his feelings, and he stick by his friends Sam and Patrick when they fall apart.

It was a short and fairly quick read, which alone would make this an appealing book for some teens. The book follows the letters of Charlie, a misfit who, after his friend commits suicide, is trying to learn how to fit into life. His letters deal with everything from his family, to his friends, and his complicated feelings about growing up.

The novel also deals with physical and sexual abuse in relationships, such as when Charlie’s sister is hit by her boyfriend but continues to secretly date him, as well as Charlie remembering being sexually molested as a small child. He also remembers his dad hitting him and recounts a history of physical abuse in his family.

Sex is also a huge part of this novel. Sex “pops up” multiple times in this novel, such as when Charlie overhears his crush having sex with her boyfriend, or when he walks in on his sister naked with her boyfriend. He also learns that a friend is having a secret homosexual romance. He also goes with his gay friend to pick up guys for anonymous sex, and this same friend kisses Charlie. There are other scenes where people are making out and descriptions of people having sex, and toward the end, there is a very descriptive scene where Charlie stops a girl from touching him when he remembers being abused.

Cautions
Minor Violence
Mature Sexual Themes
Language
Drug and Alcohol

Classroom Use
Bookshelf – This book is definitely not something I think I would use in the classroom. There are a lot of controversial things going on in this little book, and while I think, and know, that they are, for the most part, relevant to young adults today, I would think that using this novel in the classroom might ruffle some feathers. I would keep, however, keep this book in my secret stash, and give it to a student who I know this would work for.

Other Suggested Readings
Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

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