Banned Books Week: The Perks of Being a Wallflower


In celebration of Banned Books Week, we’re highlighting a few our favorite books (and authors) that have been challenged in schools and libraries because of content or appropriateness.

“Standing on the edges of life offers a unique perspective, but there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.”

I love The Perks of Being a Wallflower a whole heck of a lot. Simplistic, I know, but it’s the truth.

And the book’s truth-factor has managed to make people a little twitchy since its publication in 1999. This special brand of “truthiness” has led to it earning the distinction of being the 10th most challenged or banned book in the past decade. Stephen Chbosky – hometown hero!

Reasons this has been tagged a terrible, awful, no good, very bad book:

  • Anti-family
  • Drugs
  • Homosexuality
  • Offensive language
  • Religious viewpoint
  • Sexually explicit
  • Suicide
  • Unsuited to age group
  • Nudity

Well, yes, okay. But those are also reasons the book is real and relatable. They all exist in the world and shouldn’t be ignored.

Plain and simple, Charlie is a lost soul. His Aunt Helen died when he was young, his best friend Michael just committed suicide, his sister is distracted, his brother is away at college on a football scholarship, and the only friend he makes on the first day of high school is his English teacher, Bill. It’s not until Charlie connects with Patrick and Sam, a pair of dynamic step-siblings, that he begins to figure some things out about life, love, and the pursuit of Rocky Horror.

It’s interesting to re-read this as a semi-grown up. As a young reader, it’s easy to identify with Charlie’s fears and triumphs. Now, I find myself more in line with Bill the English teacher* – the need to protect and encourage Charlie is almost overpowering. All the same, the book is still powerful. We all need a little encouragement to step away from the wall and join the dance floor sometimes.

– Jess, who strives to feel infinite

*Bill’s Recommended Reading List


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5 responses to “Banned Books Week: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

  1. Maria

    I really enjoyed this book, too! Another wonderful coming-of-age book (that has also been banned often) is Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian.

  2. lizzy

    Every year Pittsburgh hosts a ‘Banned Books reading” along with the ACLU. A great FREE event. Mark it down for next year. Meanwhile, check out the lists from ALA:

  3. Tim

    I just read Perks for the first time pretty recently and I didn’t get the appeal at all. I saw the film yesterday and it actually cleared up some of my issues with the novel… making one of those rare ‘movie better than book’ situations.

    I was (and, largely, still am) pretty socially stunted so the fact that I found such a socially stunted character incredibly unrealistically TOO stunted was surprising and disappointing to me. I honestly thought that it was a novel from the point of view of a mentally handicapped kid throughout most of it – and then, BAM! there’s a weird twist in the end that, whoa, Charlie is actually the most brilliant kid in the school. Why would that be a twist? It’s super downplayed in the film and there’s no revelatory moment of brilliance so that was much easier to take.

  4. Kimiko Lotus

    I love this book! I also love the children’s book (also, on the banned list) And Tango Makes Three….I know, we must all fear those scary gay penguins, SMH

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