Chbosky, Stephen (1999). The perks of being a wallflower. Pocket Books: New York.
Plot Description: This is Charlie’s coming-of-age story, told in his own words. Through his letters to an unknown person, we see Charlie’s first year of high school. He shares his trials and tribulations, as well as his triumphs, as he tries to figuring out who he is and where he belongs in the world. After his best friend’s death the year before, he had a break down and spend time in a mental hospital. Charlie is a loner as school begins. Then he befriends a group of Seniors at a football game and slowly becomes a part of their world. Through observing and then ‘participating’ (as his favorite teacher tells him to do) he has both successful and detrimental results as he navigates high school, family relationships, friendship, acceptance and love.
Quantitative Reading Level : Lexile Measure: 720L, ATOS Book Level: 4.8, Interest Level: Upper Grades (9-12), AR Points: 9
Qualitative Reading Analysis: The genre is familiar. The story is a first person narrative being told in letter form to an unknown recipient. The narrator is generally reliable (but not always), with a limited point of view. He uses stream of consciousness, as if he were speaking to someone, with little asides and explanations and opinions on people and events, as he sees them. The organization is conventional, but on occasion briefly shifts to the past before returning to the main story timeline. There are subplots and time shifts as he remembers snippets of his childhood and Aunt Helen, who died when he was young. Charlie (and the reader with him), slowly uncover more about the past as the story unfolds. The characters are more complex and not always understood because the reader only knows the characters through the eyes of the narrator. I would consider the text very complex based on these attributes of text structure, but not on it’s vocabulary, which is contemporary, familiar and conversational, while the conventionality is largely explicit and easy to understand, making the language features moderately complex. For knowledge demands I would put it in very complex because there are references and allusions to other texts and cultural elements, it explores themes of varying levels of complexity and abstraction and some of the experiences will be outside of most readers experiences. There are also many experiences that readers will be able to relate to, such as grief, trying to fit in, making friends, dating, family relationships, choices about sex, drugs & alcohol. Some themes are clear, while others are more subtly revealed over the course of the novel.
Content Area: English, Literature
Content Area Standard: English Language Arts Standards for College and Career Readiness: Anchor Standards for Reading
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.6 Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.
English Language Arts Standards: Writing
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.8 Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
Curriculum Suggestions: Ask students to write their own (real or imagined) narrative of a coming of age event such as the first day of high school, first date, forming of friendship, etc. Students can write a letter to themselves like Charlie’s at the beginning of the school year, telling about their hopes, fears, goals, etc for the coming year and offering advice and encouragement to themselves. Respond to one of Charlie’s letter’s as if you were the recipient. Comment on what he has told you and offer your advice. Have students research suicide in teens and suicide prevention. Write an essay on how you would help Charlie cope if he was your friend. Rewrite one of the scenes in the book from another character’s point of view. Read this book paired with another coming of age tale, such as The Catcher in the Rye and have students do a comparative analysis.
Supporting Digital Content:
Awards: SLJ Best Book, ALA Notable/Best Books
Character names/descriptions: Charlie: the narrator, Sam: the girl he is in love with, Patrick: his best friend and Sam’s step-brother, Mary Elizabeth: a Goth Girl who has a romantic interest in Charlie and is Sam’s close friend, Aunt Helen: his dead aunt who he thinks of often.
High interest annotation: Starting high school is rough. Especially for shy, Charlie. Will he stay on the sidelines observing or gain the courage to take risks, find himself and fully participate in life?
Personal Notes: I enjoyed this novel and think it would be good for reluctant readers. It deals with a lot of ‘controversial’ issues and real life pressures and choices facing teens, so I think many would find it relatable.