Monday, May 22, 2023

Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky


Can we talk banned books for a minute?  

Reading banned books for me is my very quiet way of "sticking it to the man." Its a way of joining the table of discussion about banned books. 

Perks of Being a Wallflower has been banned from many public school curriculum since it was published in 1999. Most recently you can read about it being banned from this Florida school district for "extreme sexual content descriptions, bestiality and a language alert, using a “shock effect to engage teenage minds” 

I'm not going to lie, I completely forgot about the very brief mention of any bestiality in the book it was so inconsequential.  I digress! 

To see it's entire banning history check out this link here from Marshall University.


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. This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

This is the story of what it's like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.

Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up.


I feel this book should absolutely be required reading for every young person or any adult who may have forgotten what it's like to be a young person.  Parents who are on the fence should co-read this so you can discuss any hot topics or subjects with your child as they read it. 

This story will benefit any reader because it will:

  • Expose the reader to gay positive themes.
  • Humanize our narrator as he navigates growing up in the 90's. 
  • Expose the reader to difficult situations, such as bullying, rape, abortion, drug use, sexual abuse, suicide, physical abuse and the emotional roller coaster these themes can bring to people experiencing them.
  • Discuss themes teenagers usually have to deal with, like first kisses, self-esteem, finding friends, and dealing with crushes.
  • Remind us that when we are going through difficult things we aren't alone.
  • Our past doesn't define us, and it's completely possible to thrive after a difficult period.

Charlie's letters in this story sometimes are absolutely heart breaking.  His letters are raw and dive into a very deep and private part of growing up in the 90's. We follow Charlie as he navigates that first year in high school, and all of the difficulties that comes with being a teenager. Charlie is encouraged by his teacher to "participate in life" and not just be a bystander or a "wallflower."

The post script is by far one of the most powerful parts of the book. Don't skip it. We learn after all he went through, Charlie is ok. He reflects back on his youth as a difficult time, but we also learn how his story has helped other young people feel less alone in their battles. 

Some of my favorite quotes from this book are when Charlie's English teacher tells him "We accept the love we think we deserve," and "Be a filter, not a sponge."

When we ban books like this we only stunt the growth of the young people this would benefit. We lose an opportunity to be kinder, more open, and loving as a community. This book isn't here to glorify these behaviors or circumstances...but to open our minds to the individuals who may be living lives we don't understand. We shouldn't shy away from the difficult conversations this book might encourage.

This is a coming of age story that should not be skipped. I think every young person (or even older people) should read this book to gain a deeper knowledge of themselves, and to grow as empathetic humans. We need more of those.

Perks of Being a Wallflower was published February 1, 1999 is available at most public libraries (if it hasn't been banned) and it's also available on  Amazon and Bookshop.

If you'd like to support this blog, please be sure to check out my Etsy Shop and my Read Banned Books Shirtsticker, and coffee mug.

Disclaimer: I borrowed this book from my library. There are links to Amazon, Bookshop and Etsy, clicking these links won't cost you anything but any purchase helps support this blog.  Thanks!

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