‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ gets shelved


Reese Duncan

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” chronicles the adolescent trials of Charlie and his tight-knit group of friends.

Katya Surendran, Staff Writer

Deemed inappropriate for high school freshmen and not a classical novel, Stephen Chbosky’s bestseller “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” was officially taken out of the Sioux Falls School District’s English I curriculum this February. 

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” published in 1999 follows Charlie, a socially awkward freshman in high school, and his journey through trying to make new friends, move on from the past and discover who he is. This book consists of a compilation of letters from Charlie to an unnamed person whom he calls “friend” and shares his deepest thoughts with. Dealing with the deaths of loved ones and a traumatic past, the protagonist faces challenges no child should ever have to come across.

“A huge lesson [in the novel] is learning to speak up when things are not okay in your life, that it’s okay to not be okay and that you need to find resources and find people to speak to when you’re not doing okay,” said LHS English I teacher, Abby Berke.

While this is an important message for high school students to hear, especially freshmen, the book contains a lot of mature themes, making many question its suitability to students. Charlie is met with numerous difficulties and writes about assault, abuse, death and drug use in his letters. Although these topics and scenes were not discussed in detail in the course, freshmen are still below the book’s recommended reading age of 16 years old.

In early February of this year, the district’s English department was informed in an email that “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” should not be taught in English I classes. The decision to take Chbosky’s novel out of English I was because the book was already a lit circle choice at the English III level. In addition, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” has a recommended reading age of 16 and over making it a better fit for students in English III. A second email in March was sent to staff to clarify that “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” would remain a lit circle option in English III. 

“‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ was chosen as a lit circle choice for English III . . . we [give] students the opportunity to read different texts in each course. Since ‘The Perks of [Being] a Wallflower’ was already an option at the English III level, that is where it stayed in the curriculum,” said Sioux Falls School District’s High School Curriculum Coordinator, Kristin Grinager.

 As it is taught in American Literature (English III), many believe it would not make sense for students to read the book beforehand, so it was removed from English I. On top of this, students taking English III will most likely be at or above the recommended reading age of Chbosky’s work. While these reasons do not explain the spontaneous removal of the novel, it shows that “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” was not fully taken out of the English curriculum in the district.

The subject’s syllabus as a whole may not have changed, but due to the spontaneity of this decision, Berke had to quickly switch out the coming-of-age unit taught with “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” to “Lord of the Flies” teaching a unit on human morals and mob mentality instead. While “Lord of the Flies” contains its share of suitability issues and its appropriateness for freshmen and sophomores has been debated across the nation, it does show that the school district does not base the choice to remove a book from the curriculum solely on mature discussions in the novel.

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” was taken out of the English I curriculum because Chbosky’s book is not a classic, is not recommended for freshmen in high school and is currently taught in English III. Despite the concerns that have been raised about this book, high school students are still able to read it and check it out of the library.