Few books have the impact—emotionally and commercially—of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower (MTV Books, 1999). Chbosky’s coming-of-age novel about a 15-year-old boy unable to repress any emotions has quietly sold nearly half a million copies, birthing a cult of diehard fans more dedicated than the weirdest of Star Trek geeks. According to Chbosky, Perks has convinced some teenagers to choose life over suicide; if you speak to a random sampling of high school or college students anywhere in America, Perks inevitably emerges as a favorite novel.
Due to its popularity, however, the book has become a target for anti-obscenity moralists who believe that literature leads to licentiousness. Two school districts have banned Perks, and many more have challenged the novel for its depictions of adolescent sexuality and drug use. In November 2004, a group of Wisconsin parents challenged Perks after a teacher assigned the book (even though the school required parental permission in the first place).
After public hearings attended by 200 citizens—along with ACLU representatives and students carrying posters proclaiming “Keep Perks” and “Reading Promotes Thought”—the Wisconsin school board declined to remove the book from the curriculum. (“Now I want it banned,” said parent Karen Krueger, responding the anticensorship decision in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Their parental notification is ineffective.”)
Chbosky spoke about the fiasco—and his feelings about censorship—from his home in Los Angeles, where he is currently writing a screenplay for a major Hollywood director (whose name is off the record) and a forthcoming television series for UPN. Click here to read the interview...