Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Banned Books Week: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower last winter after seeing the movie, and I was pretty worried this would ruin the book for me. I received the novel from a close friend who shares my affinity for young adult lit. (Don’t we all have a soft spot?) I went home for winter break and read the book in one sitting, in the bathtub, sobbing, my tears mixing with the bubbles.

There’s something about adolescent stories that just pulls at my heartstrings: so much raw emotion and so many unexamined decisions. Through Charlie’s adventures I relived the magic of my own high school friendships. After finishing the book I promptly handed it over to my 16-year-old brother, not thinking once about the so-called dangerous content cited by critics: “anti-family, drugs, homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, suicide, and nudity.” These issues are important at certain times and places, but they don’t legitimize book banning. The power of a book is in the unfolding of the character’s experience. Charlie, like all of us, didn’t know his life would be difficult, but in that experience he found beauty and so does the reader find beauty in hers. Life is in the living of uncomfortable, unpleasant, unique, and at times offensive moments, but by banning them we deny the possibilities they hold, the infinity of being. It’s an experience for the reader, one I couldn’t just tell my brother about, but one he’d have to recognize and claim as his own.

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