This week is Banned Books Week, and we’re celebrating by showcasing various books which have been censored for a variety of reasons. Celebrate this week by picking up one of these books and reading.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a young adult novel that could be set in any decade starting with the eighties, given the music and clothing references. Take away those and it could be set easily two decades earlier. The point being that this is a typical suburban, small town tale of a kid just trying to make it through high school. There are some differences with this kid. He is sensitive to the point of being overly emotional, highly intelligent and thoughtful, and not your usual sophomore, but one who would be a really good friend despite the ridiculous clichés and rumors of high school.
As to the reason why it is banned in some places? All I can think of is that Stephen Chobsky did an extraordinary job of describing high school life. It is not painted and polished like many television shows aimed at this population. The main character Charlie has a gay friend (didn’t we all, even if we didn’t quite realize what that meant), a sister who is popular, a crush who is a senior, a girlfriend he just kinda goes along with for a while, and a brother in college. He tries drugs, but isn’t really a fan. One of his teachers thinks he is brilliant and gives him extra stuff to read. He lets his gay friend do what he needs to do and even supports him. There is a teenage pregnancy that he helps with. His crush is also his friend who kisses him once or twice, and of course, the local Bob’s Big Boy is a sight of many small dramas. It could have just as easily been the Dairy Queen or the Taste Freeze. Finally, at the end, things come to a head as they can only do in a small town, and we discover that Charlie was molested as a child.
Charlie calls himself a wallflower because he quietly observes his surroundings and engages when it is safe. This was most of us in high school, and the story isn’t that far off of most of us. But why is it banned? I don’t get it really, unless it is the references to homosexuality or molestation. And those are common in high school, not to mention life. Chobsky never gets graphic with anything. He just reports things in a letter to an anonymous “friend.”
It is all very real, and we all dealt with at least one or two of these things, usually many of them. High school and college are times when these things are real and alive developmentally. It is normal on a human development level, and the explorations of both drugs and sex are common during this age period. So I am left scratching my head on this one. This age group is old enough, both cognitively and developmentally, to deal with these issues, and they probably already are in their own lives, so why not talk about it?
The politics of literature never cease to amaze me.
photo credit: Tayrawr Fortune