I recently watched (for the first time) the movie adaptation of: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I had heard that the book/movie was labeled ‘controversial’ so I wanted to judge for myself. I didn’t seek out the movie, but did watch it when I saw it was on; thus starts the journey…
Serious spoilers ahead.
So, the only thing that I knew about this so called ‘controversial’ book/movie was that a kid committed suicide, that it had an impact on other characters, and that the ‘controversial’ label got the book banned in a lot of places.
What I didn’t know, is that the suicide was only a small part of the story, I really thought that the main character (Charlie) was the one to commit suicide. While watching the movie, I really started to wonder if Charlie would commit suicide – since it mentioned that his best friend committed suicide a year prior to the book/movie’s timeline.
Anyway, lets get some of the quote ‘controversial bits’ listed before going any further, they are often about the following underlined ‘topics’:
- suicide – a friend of Charlie’s commits suicide a year before the story’s timeline; in the movie’s adaptation it’s implied that Charlie considers suicide while in an altered emotional state – remembering his aunt’s attempts (healed slit wrists) while turning to look at a knife on the kitchen counter
- smoking (chain smoking) by adolescents – occurs the book, not in the movie
- drug use / drug dealing by high school / early college aged adolescents – pot, LSD, uppers, etc. and their ‘effects’
- under age drinking
- adolescents having sex
- homosexuality – one of the main supporting characters is openly gay and actively participates in homosexual encounters (book); a secondary supporting character in the book states that she wants to explore lesbianism
- molestation – Charlie is molested by his aunt; a main supporting character is stated as had been molested/raped by a family friend
- rape – there is a scene in the book where Charlie witnesses a rape when he was younger
- abortion – Charlie’s sister, in the book, has an abortion
Okay… so, first impressions. Wow. The movie was very moving, and I understand how it got so many accolades. I enjoyed the movie, even used a line from it for my email signature of the week:
“I saw this tree. But it was a dragon. Then it was a tree again. It just lied to me.”
– Charlie / The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
I didn’t really see why it was so ‘controversial’… this meant that I had to read the book, as we know, the book is almost always better than the movie adaptation. I was intrigued to find out that Stephen Chbosky, the author, also wrote the movie’s screen play and directed the movie – that’s very rare!
So I started reading the book immediately after watching the movie. I didn’t get very far because it was late on a Sunday night. Before going to work, I searched the school’s library catalog to see if they had a copy of the book. I found it interesting that it wasn’t listed.
Obviously the ‘controversial’ bits probably had something to do with it.
I don’t remember if it was that Monday or Tuesday, but I visited the library and started chatting with the Librarian. I plainly said that I found it odd that the library didn’t have a particular book. She knew exactly what I was talking about (because of my email signature – since I had sent at least two or three mass emails with the quote listed above). She started to say that the school did a have a copy but she pulled it. She mentioned that she quickly decided after “the first ten pages…”
Huh. I was way past the first ten pages, and I didn’t recall anything that was so ‘over the top’ to force ‘banning’ the book… then again I work at a private religious high school.
Anyway, our conversation was cut VERY short and I went about my business motivated even more to finish the book.
Today I had time to finish the book. I don’t think it’s overly ‘controversial’ at all. Just look at what’s on TV now days. There are are much more graphic events taking place on weekly tv shows, heck I could list shows that would fall under one or more of the ‘controversial’ list outlined above on a weekly basis. Lets not even mention what’s found on the Internet. LOL
What I found really interesting after finishing the book – was reading the “Reading Group Guide” at the end of the Kindle edition – one part stood out (reinforcing the ‘controversial’ labeling):
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower has been included on the American Library Association’s annual “10 Most Frequently Challenged Books” list five times in the past ten years.”
It also made the list at #10 of the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009
I wondered – didn’t I see the book cover on some reading list poster advertised at the school within the last year or two? I couldn’t verify that, but I did prompt me to look at the current reading lists that the school’s library promotes. Of the two, one of them currently lists – The Perks of Being a Wallflower – as one of the books. That list is from the Illinois State Library – Read for a Lifetime 2013-2014
Fascinating that a book that was pulled from the school’s shelves is currently on one of the reading lists that the school’s library is promoting/encouraging students to read. It will be interesting to see how the librarian responds to this ‘insight’.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Official Book Site • Goodreads • Wikipedia
Official Movie Site • IMDB • Wikipedia