Today was our monthly banned book club meeting. The students showed up in droves! And by that I mean we had 30 students there. Egads, success!
Our December book was The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I am aware that its January, but you know, you do what you can.
I loved the discussion that we had today. I am constantly amazed by how smart the students are. I think the greatest moment in teaching is when a student gives insight that I had never thought of. They take an angle or see a view or make a point and I just sit back and think, "Wow! I never saw it that way, but you're totally right."
Here's some things we talked about:
What are "the perks of being a wallflower"? What are the advantages and disadvantages to being a "wallflower" vs. a "participator".
Charlie's relationship with his Aunt Helen. This one gets so complex. ***Spoiler Alert*** Charlie's aunt is dead throughout the course of the novel, but he looks back on her fondly and implies that her unexpected death is the reason for a lot of his loneliness and depression. He states that she was the only one who ever called him special and got him "two presents"- one for his birthday and one for Christmas. It isn't until the very end of the book that we find out that the aunt had been sexually abusing Charlie as a young boy. Thus making the whole relationship that much more confusing. Some students were willing to forgive the abuse, stating that she had been abused as a child and that we are all victims of victims. Others didn't excuse her so quickly, losing all respect for her once they had found out. I was especially interested by one student's comment that she thought the sexual abuse part of the book was "unnecessary". That the author didn't need to add it in to explain Charlie's weirdness and that the book would have been better without it.
"We accept the love we think we deserve". Agree or disagree with this statement? Where have you seen this in other literature or in your own lives?
Why is the book commonly banned? Should it be? This one got the kids all riled up. Some said they would be wildly uncomfortable reading this in class while others said it would be refreshing to read something this "real" in school. Of course we brought up the drug use, the teen sex scenes, the child abuse, and the abortion. One student brought up that he didn't think the abortion played that big of a part in the book and pointed out that the movie had cut it out completely. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I am dying to. The best part was when a kid who unknowingly stumbled in to the meeting raised his hand and said after a long discussion about the sex and drug use, "I don't know what book you are talking about, but I would like to read that in class. It sounds way more interesting than what we read!" I bet it does, kiddo, I bet it does.
"And in that moment we were infinite". What is the significance of this line (One of the most famous lines in the book and movie.)
What makes Charlie different than other protagonists? Do you consider him weak?
Is this an accurate representation of high school? I was especially interested in this one as the kids all seemed to agree that it was pretty accurate. I felt that the book was a bit over the top/ dramatized but the kids disagreed. THE TEENS HAVE SPOKEN!
If you haven't read the book, I suggest you do. It's a super fast read at probably a 7th grade reading level and barely 200 pages Charlie, the protagonist, is so incredibly thoughtful and sincere and you can't help but fall in love with him. I can totally see why the book is banned for high schools, but I don't see the book to be immoral. There is love and friendship and family and even some warm fuzzies in there if you look hard enough for it.
Have you read Perks of being a Wallflower? What did you think of it?!? And those of you who have seen the movie, give us a review! How does it compare to the book?
P.S. January's book is SlaughterHouse Five. We will be discussing it on January 31. Pick up a copy so you can join in on next month's discussion! Internet book club- boo yah!