Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

In the ten years or so since this book was first published (by MTV books, my edition was proud to tell me), this book has become a sort of Gen-next Catcher in the Rye. I think this was exactly the intention of the author, who name-checks not only that novel but a dozen other works of literature as it tries to claw its way into the coming of age niche. I'm not really complaining, though - it's hard to bag on a novel that has a character who actually reads.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower also has a Degrassi-esque quality in that one big Issue follows the other, including smoking, drugs, homosexuality, sex, teen pregnancy, abortion, abusive relationships, and others. Charlie, the narrator, maintains a kind of innocence throughout everything, even appearling to be be shocked - Shocked!- by the idea of masturbation, which he discovers at age 15. Charlie tells the story through a series of letters to an unidentified off-screen character, and it took me a good while to get into the flow of the story. I picked it up and put it down a few times before finally deciding to plow through, and I was glad that I did. The story isn't going to change my life, but it's the sort of one that might change someone's. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is number 10 on the ALA's list of the 10 most banned and challenged books of 2007-2008, which is how I came across the book and probably what motivated me to commit to it. I don't know how likely I'll be to look into what else Chbosky has read, but I'm happy that I've read this one.

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