Young Adult Lit/Crit

April 16, 2008

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Filed under: Look What I'm Reading for Book Club! — sostrom @ 9:17 pm

Well, I am on a book club reading streak, and I’ve found another one I really liked: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.  I don’t know how to describe this book… it’s an epistolary novel written from a 15-year-old high school freshman, Charlie, to an anonymous “friend.”  Charlie has a strong voice that reminds me of Sherman Alexie’s Arnold/Junior in terms of their shared matter-of-factness, appreciation of life and determination to continue to grow.  I really loved this character, and, like Junior, despite being surrounded by flawed individuals, the people in Charlie’s life are generally good people.

This book is chock full of YA topics: sex, drugs, homosexuality, sexual abuse, drinking, music (I felt a little nostalgic at the mention of The Smiths), family dynamics, identity and belonging, and an English teacher who challenges Charlie with extensive outside reading and writing.  One point I’d like to take up occurs early in the novel.  After a student’s suicide, a guidance counselor cites “problems at home” as the probable cause.  I wonder if this phrase is overused by schools.  In thinking about our last three class reads, Thirteen Reasons, Endgame and Story of a Girl, I wonder if we could classify these kids as having “problems at home.”  Sure, there were some problems at home, but what about “problems at school”?  I would argue that in Hannah’s case especially, if the problems at school were addressed and dealt with, the end result might have been different.  Further, are we as educators absolved of guilt if the problems were at home?  Curious to hear what others think about this book and about the whole “problems at home” label.


1 Comment »

  1. I’m glad you liked this book.I read it a few years ago and definitely enjoyed it. It was another one of those books that you could relate to, and you could really feel for Charlie.

    Speaking to your suicide point, I definitely feel like this is an overused and under-researched term. It seems to me that schools often use broad terms like these to put the cases to rest while they should be trying to find other reasons why, and other things that happened in the child’s life that could have brought them to do this. I think that schools sometimes get lazy in this, or want to close the wound as soon as possible so as not to leave time for others to find fault in their “perfect” system. Look at the book Endgame, I think that we should research this further because there is a real problem here.

    Now you’ve gotten my all fired up!


    Comment by erinlbowman — April 23, 2008 @ 9:57 am

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