The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a WallflowerThe book club at my school, which I advise, elected to read Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower for its first book. We plan to go see the movie after we finish the book. I had wanted to read the book for a long time.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an epistolary novel about high school freshman Charlie’s adjustment to high school, including finding friends, his first crush, and dealing with some difficult issues. Early in the book, Charlie explains he is writing these letters to an anonymous reader because he heard the reader is a good person. Charlie has recently lost a good friend to suicide and is worried about high school, especially finding friends. At one of the first football games, he befriends Patrick, a boy in his shop class, and Patrick’s stepsister Sam, both of whom are seniors. As he grows closer to the two and becomes part of their circle, he learns how to stop standing on the fringes of life and “participate.”

One of the most interesting aspects of the book to me was that it was set in 1991-1992, which was my sophomore year of college, and was particularly memorable. It was my favorite year of college, and consequently, one of my favorite years of life. I was 20 for most of that school year. What a great age to be. And over half my life ago, now. đŸ˜„Â  I spent a lot of time that year listening to some of the new music coming out of Seattle, as well as some older (but new to me) favorites from the Pretenders, the Replacements, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, REM, and the Rolling Stones. One of my favorite parts of this book was the mixtape Charlie gave Patrick. I remember spending hours making mixtapes for my friends. You can make Spotify playlists in a matter of minutes. It’s not the same.

The book deals honestly with issues such as homosexuality, casual sex, drug use, suicide, abortion, and sexual abuse. In fact, if I have one criticism for the book, it’s that the entire kitchen sink of major teen issues was thrown at Charlie, and I’m not sure it’s common for most teens to experience every bad thing that can happen. However, I also admit I was sheltered. But still.

I can see why this book would appeal to teens, and I really enjoyed it myself. I found Charlie to be a likable character, though the book reminded me a great deal of The Catcher in the Rye. Charlie is not quite as friendless or annoying as Holden (though I admit I feel more empathy for Holden than annoyance with him). I have to admit I had trouble seeing him as a wallflower. It seemed to me as if he were a keen observer, but he participated plenty, in my opinion. Much more than I did as a teen—which could be why I had trouble seeing him on the sidelines of life.

I am looking forward to seeing the movie with the book club. I hope it’s good!

Rating: ★★★★☆
Fall Foliage trip to New Hampshire 2011

Sunday Salon: Book Club

Fall Foliage trip to New Hampshire 2011

I get to live in a place that looks like this in the fall. How lucky am I? I didn’t take this picture, and it’s actually New Hampshire rather than Massachusetts. The leaves have just begun to turn here. Right now there is a very soft rain falling outside. It’s perfect weather for curling up with a cup of tea and a book.

I recently became the new advisor of the Book Club at my school, and as you might expect, it’s full of smart girls. I wish we could have talked more boys into joining. If they were smart, they’d have joined if for no other reason than that they can meet girls. For their first book, the girls picked Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The plan is to read half the book by our next meeting on Thursday, and then finish the other half for the following week. Then we are going to go see the movie. I am more excited than I can say about the Book Club. For one thing, it’s a proper book club. The girls are serious. They love books. It makes me so happy. If you have ever been an English teacher and tried to get students to love books, then you understand how I feel. If you feel like the world would be a better place if only more people were readers, then you also understand how I feel.

I have also become something of a go-to person for YA in the library, and in the next few weeks, I plan to request a big stack of books for the library. I believe that the school library should be driven by student interest as much as by curriculum. Certainly teachers should request books, but it is my hope that students will also see the library as a place to check out the books they want to read. I will be helping one of our librarians out with a display for Teen Read Week. I am so excited about this role because I’m excited to influence and support our students’ reading. I have been fortunate to hear from parents and former students about my role in their development as a reader, and nothing gives me more pleasure than fostering a love of lifelong reading in a student.

I am about 60 pages into Perks, and so far, what a great book! Charlie, the protagonist, makes a mixtape for his friend Patrick, whom he has drawn as a Secret Santa partner for Christmas. I recreated the playlist minus the Beatles songs, which aren’t in Spotify (I substituted with some cover versions). I shared it with the Book Club girls, so I thought I’d share it with Perks fans here. Take a listen.

Enjoy this glorious fall Sunday!

The Sunday Salon