I remember being in high school and dreading the time when the required reading list would come out. It was usually filled with books that were considered "safe" for high school students. Books filled with lessons about life that never actually connected to our daily lives. Going into my freshman year, I was so worried and lost about high school and how I was going to fit into the social nightmare that is high school. Then my sister gave me a book, this book was called "Perks of Being A Wallflower." With a simplistic cover and vague description, I wasn't expecting much, however, I had no idea that this book would change my entire life.
"Perks of Being A Wallflower," tells the story of Charlie, a socially awkward teenager who struggles with mental health issues and dealing with the societal pressures of high school. If that book didn't describe me in a nutshell, I don't know what did. Charlie is writing to an anonymous friend, as he relays the trials and tribulations of his everyday life. Eventually, he finds his friend group and falls in love with a girl named Sam. Through this journey, we see Charlie exposed to the realities of being a teenager. Drugs, alcohol, sex, LGBTQ+ representation, and mental health are all running themes in this book, and they all come to impact Charlie in one way or another.
Now I know what you may be thinking, "why in the name of God would you want teenagers to read about this stuff?! What is wrong with you?!" My answer is simply because they are going to go through these things! And pretending as they will not isn't doing them any favors, it's only going to hurt them in the long run. I can't tell you how many times I've seen kids in college get alcohol poisoning or overdose of drugs because they were so sheltered in high school that they just go wild in college.
Here's a simple lesson I would like to send to all teachers and parents, educate the children! This book, while shocking, is important. Students at this age need to have a character that they can relate to, someone who may be struggling with the same issues they struggle with. For anyone who is still confused, your child will most likely not be dropping acid and making snow angels just because they read this book, but will it will do is give them a character to relate to.
Unlike "Catcher In The Rye," Charlie is not a whiny, self-centered protagonist, instead, he is a creative, bright young man who is haunted by the circumstances of his life. He learns the meaning of friendship, the importance of accepting others for who they are, and learning to love himself. And sure, he may have ingested a pot brownie and gotten into a couple fights along the way, but he comes out the other side a stronger person.
This book reminds us of a truth that we have forgotten in the last three words, "we are infinite." And no matter who you are, you are infinite.