CBR11 BINGO: Banned Books
This is a frequent flyer on the Office for Intellectual Freedom Top 10 Most Challenged Books list (2004, 2006-2009, 2013, 2014). The tragedy is that the books that often speak frankly and clearly about real issues of growing up and learning how to navigate in the world are frequently found so threatening. It’s as if the books are instructional manuals for bad behavior rather than stories that can offer hope, validation and solace.
“Charlie” begins writing a series of letters to an unknown person over the course of one year. Changing his name and the names of his friends and family, Charlie uses the letters to work out the relationships of the people around him as well as his place in their lives. When he is befriended by a group of older students, he is drawn into their circle. Mistaking their spirit for self assurance, Charlie is dazzled by them. The proverbial “wallflower,” he is, for the first time in his life, starting to test the waters of “participation.” At the same time, he is beginning to see the adults in his life as real people who are complicated, and often, flawed.
Trying to truly re-capture what it felt like to be a teenager has to be one of the most difficult things to do as an adult writer. The tendency to either swing towards too much melancholy OR view it all through the judgmental lens of adulthood would be hard to get around. Fortunately, Chbosky does the Charlie’s of the world justice here. He offers an earnest, complicated boy trying to make sense out of life.
This is a rare circumstance where I have seen the movie before reading the book. If a movie is coming out that looks appealing, I generally try to read the book before I see it. Likewise, if I have already seen the movie, I don’t usually bother to read the book. In this case, while much of it was familiar, the novel’s epistolary format gives it much more depth and immediacy than the movie. Well worth the read whether or not you know the basic plot line already. And, you know, it’s been banned many times, so read it and stick it to the Man!