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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

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Published by elizfutch

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Published by: elizfutch on Sep 15, 2010
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Liz FutchIndependent Book Choice; Free-Choice Response July 12, 2009FRMS 7331
The Perks of Being a Wallflower 
 
By Stephen Chbosky
Summary
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is about a young man who calls himself Charlie. The book is written as a series of letters to an anonymous person whom Charliefeels is a good person because he did not have sexual relations with a drunken girlat a party that Charlie had attended. Charlie is a slightly unstable and introvertedhigh-school freshman. He lives with his parents and sister, and has an older brotherwho is a college football player. The story begins with a story about a friend of Charlie’s who committed suicide.It appears that Charlie is not quite sure why his friend committed suicide nor doeshe understand the significance of this event. Charlie does not have many friends atschool and is considered weird by his classmates. In the beginning, the only ‘friend’Charlie has at school is his English teacher, Bill. Bill recognizes Charlie’sintelligence early on and assigns him a number of books to read. Each book thatCharlie reads subsequently becomes his favorite.As the story progresses, Charlie meets Patrick and Sam who are both seniors.Patrick and Sam are brother and sister. They accept Charlie for who he is and bringhim into their circle of friends. For the first time in his life, Charlie feels as thoughhe belongs. Through his friendship with Patrick and Sam, Charlie begins to comeout of his shell. The three of them often attend parties at Bob’s house which involveheavy drinking and pot smoking. As the friendship evolves between the threecharacters, Charlie finds himself in love with Sam but understands that Sam will notbe his girlfriend. In fact, Sam begins dating a college boy named Craig. Charlie alsolearns that Patrick is gay after catching him and the high-school quarterbackmaking out at a party.An underlying and recurring theme of the story involves Charlie’s Aunt Helen.Aunt Helen was killed on Christmas Eve while out buying Charlie a Christmaspresent. At the time of her death, Charlie was just a child. She had come to live withCharlie’s family after she began suffering mental problems from having beenmolested as a child and from being in abusive relationships. While it appears thatCharlie and Aunt Helen shared a loving and special relationship, it is eluded at theend of the story that Charlie had repressed some horrible memories about therelationship.While all the above was going on, Charlie’s sister becomes involved in an abusiverelationship. While it seems as though Charlie and his sister are not especially close,Charlie becomes extremely worried about his sister. He even goes as far as to beatup the abusive boyfriend. By the end of the story, he and his sister are much closer.He also talks about his brother a lot and how proud the family is of him for being astar football player at Penn State. Charlie’s relationship with his brother also evolvesand they become much closer by the end of the story.The end of the story finds Charlie worried about his sophomore year in highschool. His best friends, Patrick and Sam, are headed to college and Charlie will
 
once again be left by himself. He begins to drink heavily and starts to recalltroublesome memories from his childhood. He also begins to put the piecestogether about the suicide of his close friend the year before. Due to the extremeemotional stress and substance abuse that Charlie is experiencing, he ends up inthe mental ward of a hospital for two months. When he emerges, he is strong andready to face what the world throws at him.
My Response
I chose this book based solely on the basis of the title and had no priorknowledge of the content. With that being said, I began to read the book with anopen mind. I figured it would contain some controversial material since it waspublished by MTV. I liked that it was written in letter form and that it was datedwhich made it easy to follow the time frame in which the events were occurring. The main character, Charlie, seemed rather immature at first, but as the storyevolved, the character’s ‘voice’ became more mature.One of the initial events of the story involved a suicide of a young man who wasalso the best friend of the main character. It was obvious from the beginning of thestory that something was ‘off’ about Charlie. I couldn’t put my finger on it, buttoward the end of the book, the issues came to light. Some of the contentthroughout the book was explicit which, as an adult, I did not feel to be an issue. Ifeel a mature high-school student can handle the content. Several of the issuesbeside suicide that the book presented were masturbation, drugs, heavy drinking,gay sexual relationships, date rape, depression, and molestation.I understand how a troubled young person may be able to relate to Charlie’s life;at the same time, that makes me kind of sad. Many reviewers have compared thisbook to
The Catcher in the Rye
by J.D. Salinger. It has also been described as a‘coming of age’ story. The explicit content makes the story slightly jarring but alsosignificant in that it touches upon having compassion for those who are differentfrom ourselves. We may not know exactly what another person is going through andshould therefore not judge them.
Professional Book Reviews
From Publishers Weekly
A trite coming-of-age novel that could easily appeal to a YA readership,filmmaker Chbosky's debut broadcasts its intentions with the publisher'sannouncement that ads will run on MTV. Charlie, the wallflower of the title, goesthrough a veritable bath of bathos in his 10th grade year, 1991. The novel isformatted as a series of letters to an unnamed "friend," the first of which revealsthe suicide of Charlie's pal Michael. Charlie's response--valid enough--is to cry. Thecrying soon gets out of hand, though--in subsequent letters, his father, his aunt, hissister and his sister's boyfriend all become lachrymose. Charlie has the usual direadolescent problems--sex, drugs, the thuggish football team--and they perplex himin the usual teen TV ways. [...] Into these standard teenage issues Chbosky infusesa droning insistence on Charlie's supersensitive disposition. Charlie's Englishteacher and others have a disconcerting tendency to rhapsodize over Charlie'sgiftedness, which seems to consist of Charlie's unquestioning assimilation of theteacher's taste in books. In the end we learn the root of Charlie's psychologicalproblems, and we confront, with him, the coming rigors of 11th grade, ever hopeful
 
that he'll find a suitable girlfriend and increase his vocabulary.Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
My Response:
First of all, in my opinion, this review is horrible. This review does not touch uponany of the underlying issues that confront the main character. It does talk abouthow Charlie had a tendency to cry. Charlie’s crying at emotional situations,whether happy or sad, made him seem more human. The other more harsh‘realities’ of youth made the story feel made-up. I also disagree with the reviewerthat a huge focus of the book was about Charlie’s giftedness. In contrast, I feltCharlie’s intelligence was an underlying current but one that made you cheer forhim all the same.
From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up - An epistolary narrative cleverly places readers in the role of recipients of Charlie’s unfolding story of his freshman year in high school. From thebeginning, Charlie’s identity as an outsider is credibly established. It was in thespring of the previous school year that his best friend committed suicide and nowthat his class has gone through a summer of change, the boy finds that he hasdrifted away from old friends. He finds a new and satisfying social set, however,made up of several high school seniors, bright bohemians with ego-bruising insightsand, really, hearts of gold. These new friends make more sense to Charlie than hisstar football-playing older brother ever did and they are able to teach him about therealities of life that his older sister doesn’t have the time to share with him.Grounded in a specific time (the 1991/92 academic year) and place (westernPennsylvania), Charlie, his friends, and family are palpably real. His grandfather isan embarrassing bigot; his new best friend is gay; his sister must resolve herpregnancy without her boyfriends support. Charlie develops from an observantwallflower into his own man of action, and, with the help of a therapist, he begins toface the sexual abuse he had experienced as a child. This report on his life willengage teen readers for years to come. Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley PublicLibrary, CACopyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
My Response:
Epistolary is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as meaning ‘contained in or carriedon by letters’. I found this format very easy to read and left me wishing that therecipient of the letters had been revealed. However, the author never reveals therecipient and only describes him as a nice person because he didn’t have sex with agirl at a party. This leaves me to believe it was someone Charlie had encountered ata party he had attended or maybe at a party that his older brother had hosted whentheir parents were out of town. The author of this review seems to sum up the mainidea very nicely. Interesting enough, the time period this book is set in is about thetime I graduated from high-school. I am still a little perplexed as to why the authorfeels this is a normal teen’s life; maybe because I did not know anyone like Charlie,it was harder for me to relate to the book or characters.
Reader Book Reviews – Amazon.com
Startling, Gripping, and Absolutely Honest
, June 30, 2000

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