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In 1999, MTV premiered Making the Video and The Tom Green Show, their hit reality show The Real World went to Hawaii, and they got a lot of airplay out of that Prince song. You know the one. Oh, and on top of all that, they published The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
This novel by Stephen Chbosky features the three sensational things that make The Real World (and MTV as a whole) so successful: sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Although, now that we think about it, it might be more Rocky Horror Picture Show than rock 'n' roll—but there's enough music in Perks to keep you humming for hours.
The novel follows a fifteen-year-old introverted boy named Charlie through his freshman year of high school. He experiences a variety of universal teen firsts: first date, first kiss, first dance, first time acting in a gold speedo in front of a live audience. Okay, maybe not everyone's experienced that last one, but it comes with the territory in Charlie's life.
Written as a series of letters from Charlie to an anonymous recipient, it almost feels like you're reading Charlie's private diary—scandalous, we know. The book's frank depictions of teen sexuality, homosexuality, drugs and alcohol, suicide, and pretty much everything else on the censorship list have led Perks to the ALA's door many a time. But Perks doesn't glamorize these issues, nor does it get all after-school-specialy. Instead, it finds a subtle middle ground that really gets us thinking.
Unless you're a blind Martian with a conjoined twin raising tortoises with your grandkids in the Galapagos Islands (and probably even if you are), you can find something to relate to in this book. This is especially true if you didn't have that glossy, perfect high school experience that all those yearbook and prom photos make you think you had.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an honest look into the life of a teenager, warts and all. Well, okay, everyone seems to have a perfect complexion—but other than that, it's brutally honest. And boy do we mean brutal.
The teens in this book don't have unusually large vocabularies and pretentious, philosophical conversations. Instead, they chat about music and celebrities while eating burgers in a fast food restaurant. They're not imbued with magical powers on a quest to save the world from a fate worse than utter destruction. They're just trying to graduate high school and get admitted to the college of their choice.
It's not a smooth ride, either. The characters in Perks are struggling with real problems: suicide, drug abuse, teen pregnancy. Even the happy moments—first kiss, first date, first dance—are tinged with melancholy and angst. No, this isn't a sappy feel-good teen romance. It's a tell-it-like-it-is look into the life of a teenager. Whether you want to relive your not-so-glorious glory days or you're in the process of creating your own, you'll totally get this story.
Simon, Schuster, and Chbosky
You can access fun links and book club tips for Perks on the publisher's website. Although we bet you could teach them a thing or two about the book by this point.
The Perks of Hollywood
Author Stephen Chbosky both wrote the screenplay and directed the feature film. Who's the triple threat now, Liza Minelli?
The Original Picture Show
See for yourself how "cut and hunky" (2.2.11) Rocky is in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The Power of Reading
In an interview with Marty Beckerman, Chbosky reveals that two teenagers have told him that his book helped them avert suicide. Talk about powerful.
Is It Bigger than a Breadbox?
One of IGN's ten questions for Stephen Chbosky reveals that his favorite movie is My Life as a Dog, which is one of the films Bill asks Charlie to watch. Ah, art imitating life.
I Want My MTV
Does the MTV Books label attract you or turn you off? Chbosky talks about his decision to go with MTV Books, along with other thoughts on young love, screenplay writing, and seeing Rocky Horror performed live.
Stephen Chbosky Loves Libraries (And So Do We)
In this video, we also learn that Chbosky grew up ten miles outside of Pittsburgh. He's a Midwestern gentleman, it seems.
People were excited for the movie long before it came out. And as much as we'd like to believe it's because of Paul Rudd, it seems the hype was about Emma Watson's outfits.
On NPR's All Things Considered, Liz Sandler of the Wild Rumpus Bookstore (oh my, we want to go to there) recommends Perks as a book with life lessons for teens. Check out the clip and you might get a few ideas on what to read next, too.
I'm Tired and I Want to Go to Bed
Don't have a cassette player? You can listen to The Smiths' "Asleep" without a mix tape on Spotify.
From Hogwarts to High School
Emma Watson has traded in Hermione's magic wand and witchy robes for a typewriter and '90s fashion (thankfully no stonewashed jeans).
The Gang's All Here
The cast of Perks takes a break from their Secret Santa swap to pose for the camera.
Not sure what color "chartreuse" is? Take a look at the cover of Perks being read by Emma Watson.
Feeling Infinite Yet?
In case you don't hail from Pittsburgh, here's what the Fort Pitt Tunnel looks like from the outside.