The Perks of Being a Wallflower for quite some time. Based on the descriptions circulated on the internet by the would-be censors, this book is supposed to be unspeakably filthy, and I just didn't want to deal with it. They claim it contains foul language, sex, molestation, drug use, rape, violence, bestiality, suicide, homosexuality, etc. etc.
And it's all true. Well...... sort of.
Stephen Chbosky's book is a gritty and real-world look at the lives of 15-to-17-year-olds. The book is a series of intimate letters written by a young man who is struggling to understand both himself and the society around him. In addition to the usual awkwardness of the teenage years, Charlie has some specific emotional problems that make it harder for him to understand himself and others. Identifying and resolving some of those issues is a central theme of the book.
While many parents are in frank denial about this, the teenage world in the book is quite real. It involves school, cliques, dating, preparing for college, and the like. It also includes parties, sex, drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. The teenage characters live in a world of choices that is at times overwhelming, and they don't always make the right decisions. While the book leads the reader to understand, even to sympathize, nothing in the book glorifies those mistakes: actions have their consequences.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is no more lurid or raw than scores of other books aimed at the 15-and-over age group. It's treatment by censors would make it seem that this book is unusually or especially objectionable, but that is simply not the case. This is one more in a long list of examples in which one parent describes what he or she found objectionable, and then ignores any and all literary value, reducing the book to just the objectionable details. Taken out of context, the objectionable details become a lopsided and misleading description of the book, and that lopsided description then gets repeated endlessly and uncritically by people who don't read.
I have to caution Free Speech advocates not to jump to the conclusion that all the claims of the censors are at best exaggerations, and more often simple lies. Sooner or later, if only by accident, something a censor claims to be obscene or harmful to minors will turn out actually to be so. I just haven't found one yet. We have to read to verify their claims because that is the one thing they are the least likely to do themselves.