Thursday, September 30, 2010

Perks of Being a Wallflower

Okay, so another unplanned Banned Book Week post. Like Blubber, I didn't realize this one was on the list when I got it from the library, read it, and blogged it up. But, hey, it is. So I'll throw it in for this week. And, again, check out Are You There Youth? It's Me, Nikki for a super sweet blog and Banned Book Week round-up.

Well, this one is a doozy. It's been banned/challenged for alcohol! drug use! sex! abortion! homosexuality! sexual abuse! rape! and language! Aaaand Charlie reads books that have been banned. So he's pretty awesome.

I understand people not wanting their kids to read this book because it does deal with some tough issues. But that's the parent's choice about the individual child. Just because little Billy isn't ready to read about drugs and sex and molestation doesn't mean that I should be punished and denied this book. (This book is really aimed at high school-aged readers. I should hope that they'd be ready to read about sex and drugs and abuse and what-not.) How about everyone agrees to be responsible parents and focus on what is right for their own child and family instead of trying to jam us all under that crazy conservative let's-protect-the-kids-from-the-realities-of-life-forever umbrella when most of us don't want to be jammed under there, okay?

Charlie is fifteen-years-old and in the ninth grade. He writes letters to an unknown recipient. He is anonymous to even the recipient. All of the names in the story have been changed to protect the innocent. Charlie uses his letters as a sort of journal, but he finds more comfort in knowing that someone is reading them than just locking them away in a diary.
Hi. So I really like prints and vintage typewriters, too.
Someone want to slap this one onto some shiny paper for me to hang on my wall?
P.S. It's from The Reader's Quill

Charlie enters high school without any friends. In eighth grade, his best friend Michael committed suicide. From there, the few other outsiders drifted apart from each other. In shop class, Charlie meets Patrick, a senior. Soon Charlie, Patrick, and Patrick's step-sister Sam are best friends. It's the first time that Charlie has had a real group of friends. There are parties to go to and new social situations to navigate.

Sam and Patrick guide him into their group of friends. He begins to experiment with alcohol and marijuanna. He immediately has a crush on Sam, but she gently lets him down. Sam is simply too old for Patrick. Still, the three of them like to drive around and listen to mix tapes. And Charlie says some pretty deep things for a fifteen-year-old.

via The Reader's Quill
As the year progresses, Charlie grows closer to his sister. Their relationship is stormy after he confides in his English teacher that he saw her boyfriend hit her. After that, Charlie's sister hides her relationship from the family. Charlie is the only person she can tell when she gets pregnant, and he is the person that waits for her in the lobby of the abortion clinic.

The family, as a whole, is not close, so Charlie takes a lot of comfort in his new relationship with his sister. Charlie had been very close to his aunt Helen until she was killed in a car accident while on her way to buy Charlie a birthday present. Charlie holds himself responsible for her death to the point that he was in psychiatric treatment at the age of seven. Throughout the book, Charlie mentions his aunt Helen and the influence she had on him. But there is always something about his memories that are just off.

Charlie's English teacher, Bill, becomes incredibly influential. Bill starts giving Charlie special assignments. He begins exposing him to books that really fit where Charlie is in his life. As Charlie's reading progresses, his essay grades improve and he becomes more sure of who he is.

Because dating Sam is a no-no, Charlie does begin to date Sam's friend, Mary Elizabeth. Unfortunately for Mary Elizabeth, Charlie is still too hung up on Sam to give the relationship a try. It doesn't help that Sam gave him advice on how to woo M.E. And none of it makes Charlie feel good. He is constantly listening to M.E. talk about herself and her soap box issues. Even though Mary Elizabeth is pushing her ideas and her favorite books on Charlie and trying to push him into going further with sex than he's ready to do, Charlie doesn't manage to end the relationship until a game of Truth-or-Dare when he's dared to kiss the prettiest girl in the room and chooses to kiss Sam.

Obviously, this gets him kicked out of the group for a while. And Charlie is completely lost without his new friends. Finally, Charlie is brought back in after he defends Patrick. Patrick is gay. He had been secretly dating the quarterback of the football team (who had an unsuspecting girlfriend). When Patrick's boyfriend's parents caught them, he and Patrick broke up, there was a fight at school, and Patrick descended into a deep depression.

Charlie does for Patrick what he thinks a friend should do. He goes with Patrick to the park at night so that Patrick can meet other dudes. (And actually, Charlie meets the sports caster from the news station there. Small world.) After going to the park so many nights and watching Patrick get drunk and even kissing Patrick to make him happy, Charlie gets a talking-to from Sam about how he works so hard to be a good friend by doing what the other person wants him to do rather than what they need him to do.

The book ends with an epilogue. Charlie has been in the hospital for several months after having a break-down brought on by the re-surfacing of repressed memories of his Aunt Helen molesting him as a child. His friends are all visiting him regularly before they go away to college. Sam comes to visit and comforts him about beginning 10th grade without friends at school because she's going to be in the same situation at her college.
  • After two years, this book and I have finally been at the library at the same time. Two years! Don't ask why I never put it on hold. Because, really, I don't know.
  • Whoever had the book before me annotated it. This person (a girl, based on my extensive handwriting analysis) is an idiot. She misses high school and is completely scandalized by any mention of sex or masturbation. OMG! Seriously, this girl is all offended about how graphic a paragraph on masturbation is. But the paragraph was pretty PG-13, if you ask me. Was this annotator collecting information on which books to challenge? Because as soon as there was talk about masturbation, this girl checked out to never annotate again.
  • Charlie sounds like he is such an incredible human. He has an incredible amount of insight for a fifteen-year-old. I want to be his friend and love him and hang out with him and drive around aimlessly with him.
  • I loved that you can see the relationship of Charlie and his sister really progress. In a lot of books, the character is essentially the same person at the end of the story as he was at the beginning of the story. But here, it's not just Charlie that has really matured and come out of his shell. Charlie's sister changed just as much. Even though her storyline was a thread off of the big picture, she still grew and developed just like any other eighteen-year-old.
  • You know those people who try to be profound but aren't profound simply because they're trying so hard? Charlie is not one of them. He's thought provoking simply because of his honesty about his thoughts. I would like to think that I'm also not one of the people that try to be profound but isn't simply because I'm trying. Mostly because I'm not even remotely profound.
  • You should go read The Reader's Quill review of this book. That'd be where I lifted the images. The linked section here mostly features quotes from the book. And the quotes are pretty much the best part. Which would really mean that the best part of the book is the book itself. And that nothing I have to say can really convey that.
  • There is a quote from this book--"We accept the love we think we deserve." that wound up on a PostSecret. Which someone then had tattooed on them. And I feel ridiculous for remembering that. But at the same time, it's quite perfect.
  • Rumor ( has it that there will be a film adaptation. Soon. And Emma Watson, that girl I will always think of as Hermione, will star.
  • I have a new love for The Smiths "Asleep." That's the song that Charlie is obsessed with. And now I like it because of this book. Just like all the commenters on YouTube.


  1. I love this book so much. It's one I'm going to re-read in the future. Do you know I put off reading this book for so long because it was published by MTV, and that just made me roll my eyes. So at the end where I'm crying (because my shameful secret is that I cry at the ends of most books I love, no matter if it's a happy or sad ending) I was left cursing myself for not having read it earlier.

  2. This book has been on my to do reading list for so long that I couldn't even read your review! Sorry, but you've reminded me to find it again.

  3. I'm so excited to have found out about this book. Your review (along with the other one I read just a few minutes ago) make me all bouncy with excitement that my library not only has a copy but I already have it on reserve which means any day now it will be in my hot, greedy hands. Yay!