Note: This is a book review I wrote on Goodreads that I thought I’d like to share here. It’s for the ever-popular YA novel and, more recent ish, film The Perks of Being a Wallflower🙂
When I was young, I LOVED Sara Crewe.
She’s the protagonist in A Little Princess.
Mostly, what I loved about her was that she was different from her peers, kind, and imaginative.
Sara Crewe, was a character who shaped my character.
Then, there was Dorothy Jane on a little-known TV show called The Torkelsons.
And Anne with an ‘e’.
All young girls who are different, kind, and imaginative…
I’ve finally read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and it occurred to me that my different, kind, and imaginative characters are changing. They aren’t what they used to be… Charlie is different, kind, and imaginative, but in a messier way than my fictional role models were. Sara, Dorothy Jane, and Anne all faced moral dilemmas, and chose to be “good kids.” Charlie’s drug abuse and physical violence against a bully were almost non-events… insignificant in a story of depression and moral depravity.
And yet, he’s the role-model our different, kind, and imaginative kids turn to. He epitomizes what it means to be outside of the “teenage wasteland” because he is self-aware, thoughtful, intelligent… and I wonder if our attempts to see the world more completely, with depth and empathy, have caused us to over-complicate morality. Charlie is a “good person” who does naughty things. He even does them sometimes with a “good heart,” which pisses me off. Although morality is certainly complex, I’m disappointed that my students are offered such an anti-hero role model.
Where is the Sara Crewe, who, starving and exhausted, offered her last piece of bread to a stranger who needed it?
While I understand that the world has changed, and current YA literature reflects the times, I also wish we had a few true heroes, who struggle, but ultimately stand up for what is right – who would struggle with decisions that Charlie hardly even notices, because he’s too busy getting high and kicking ass.
I want more than The Perks of Being a Wallflower for the kids, with whom I spend most of my life. I want better than Charlie. 😦