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Saturday, October 1, 2016

#BannedBooksWeek: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Hi guys and gals!
Welcome back to Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers.

So, it's the first day of October (Yay!) and the last day of #BannedBooksWeek (Boo!), but the fun of being a reading rebel doesn't stop at the stroke of midnight.  The beauty of reading is that is can be done anytime, anywhere, anyhow...and the book you choose is entirely up to you.  Hence today's selection and celebration.

For BBW newbies, this week is when the reading world unites to learn what books made the ALA Banned Book list for the past year. Who puts them on the list?  Everyone from parents to teachers, librarians to the government, and beyond. can aid in getting a book on the "naughty" list.  Does it mean it's a bad read, less than enjoyable, or otherwise unworthy of attention?  Hardly, especially when you see what titles end up listed time and time again.  Oh yes, there are perpetual offenders, but the reasons they land there are ever more complex.

The easiest way to explain it is with this handy graphic from the ALA site.  These are some of the most common reasons given for a book to be added to the list.  In short, it's a difference of opinion, or beliefs, about life and what should be represented in our reading material.  Some you may actually find yourself agreeing with (I'm not judging!), others you may think are simply absurd.  For my part in the celebration, I chose a title I've had on my to read list for quite some time that just so happens to be one of the top ten challenged titles of 2014.  Ladies and gents, fellow reading rebels, join me as we discuss today's book of choice...

Stephen Chbosky
Gallery Books

About the book...
The critically acclaimed debut novel from Stephen Chbosky, Perks follows observant “wallflower” Charlie as he charts a course through the strange world between adolescence and adulthood. First dates, family drama, and new friends. Sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Devastating loss, young love, and life on the fringes. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie must learn to navigate those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.


Image result for punk girl reading

I can honestly say, I did not know what I was getting into when I picked this title up.  All I knew about it was that A) it was previously challenged, B) I had heard it was a good read, C) it'd been on my wish list for a while, and D) it was a good length for the tiny break in my reading schedule so that I too could participate in a little reading rebel fun.  See, all good reasons!  ^-^  Anywho...

Upon opening the book, I was greeted by an unexpected was written completely in letters from our leading man, Charlie, to "Friend", a mysterious figure that remains hinted at but never quite exposed.  I was dumbfounded.  It's not that I'm opposed to this style of story telling, but of those I've read, some hit it out of the park, others fall short of home base. This endeavor was definitely the former rather than the latter and it all has to do with the awesome cast of characters the author created.

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Charlie is quite the high school freshman.  He's different than some, and better than most, not that that thought would ever cross his mind.  He's much too good for that.  I found his voice really resonated off the page, leaving us with an authentic reproduction of someone that fit the wallflower definition to a "T".  For those in the same category (*raises hand*), you understand the "perks of being" without explanation; for those outgoing souls among you, it may be harder to grasp, but by book's end, you'll get there.  There's much to be learned in the silence of a moment, when we use our other powers of observation and listening to really get to the heart of the matter.  Charlie understands this even more than he understands himself, and while that makes him different, it's really only just, because who can really say they know themselves inside and out?  It's a challenge taken over a lifetime, not a year of high school.  Suffice it to say his innocence, his wide eyed wondering, his attempts at being in the moment and his penchant for saying the right or wrong thing at the opposing time, will have you endeared to him in no time flat.

As for the other characters, there are many but the two that would be lead supporting actors/actresses are Sam and Patrick.  Brother and sister by genetics, friends because they are amazing, this duo becomes Charlie's support team, peer teachers, and best friends.  They go through highs (literal and non) and lows, the ins and outs of high school, tough relationships and bad decisions, but also the amazing moments that made them feel infinite.  They were quite the pair turned trio and I couldn't love them more for it.  Sam's handling of Charlie's feelings, Patrick's trust in Charlie despite the newness of their friendship, the guidance and support they both gave in helping to navigate this chapter in his life, and finally, the I'm-here-for-you-but-not-suffocating-you stance they took when everything fell down; they all felt so true for the characters as we knew them.  Now on to the banning...

Image result for wallflower

As I was reading, I was wondering what I would discover in relation to why the book was challenged and/or banned, but as it turns out, it was not a mystery well hidden but rather screamed from the highest mountains.  By page 60, we'd already dealt with teen drinking, drug use, sex, masturbation, rape, and sexual preferences; by book's end, we've added molestation, pregnancy, abortion, and violence to that list. It was almost as if the author set out to write a book that could hold the most offensive to the most people all in one volume.  He succeeded to a degree, but I will say's all real life problems.  You can't run from them, hiding does no good, and teenagers (as well as adults) deal with 99.9% of them at one point or another in their lives.  It's not approached in a shock value sorta way, nor with kid gloves, but it is dealt with, and that's the most anyone can expect from anyone, fictitious or reality.

I really enjoyed this work, much more so than I anticipated, and invite you to join me and my fellow reading rebels as we break through the barriers others try to throw in our way to read what we want to read.  I'm off to check out the movie version...we'll see how it holds up.


About the author...

Stephen Chbosky

Stephen Chbosky wrote and directed the feature film adaptation of his award-winning novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. He has worked in film and television, on projects including the film version of the smash-hit musical Rent; the TV show Jericho; and others. He also edited Pieces, a collection of short stories for Pocket Books. A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Chbosky graduated from the University of Southern California’s Filmic Writing Program. His first film, The Four Corners of Nowhere, premiered at Sundance Film Festival. Follow Stephen on Twitter @StephenChbosky.


Read Banned Books

This title was chosen from my personal library, and then checked out of my public library as I couldn't be my hands on my own copy fast enough.  (Hey, don't act like it hasn't happened to you before...)  This title released several odd years ago in both classic and movie tie-in covers (as seen further up in our post) via Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, so be on the lookout for it on a bookstore shelf or at a virtual retailer of your choosing.

Until next time, remember...if it looks good, READ IT!


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