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Announcing the inaugural #BCReadalong! THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky (8/18-31/13)
Lucy Silag
Posted: Sunday, August 18, 2013 12:20 PM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1356

Happy Sunday, everybody!


One of the things we want to try with Book Country 2.0 is having a “readalong” every couple of weeks. What we envision is not just a book club (though I do love a good book club!), but rather reading a specific book as a community, from a writer’s perspective.


So what does it mean to read a book as a writer?


It means that we won’t just discuss what we like or don’t like about the book (though that’s fair game, of course!). We’ll also talk about the book as if the author was a Book Country member posting the manuscript for feedback. We’ll analyze what works and what doesn’t work in terms of structure, prose, dialogue, pacing, voice, and characterization. We can also talk about how this book was published, and what went into making it successful. Writing and publishing issues big and small will be up for debate, and the more people who join in on the conversation, the better!

The book I chose for our first #BCReadalong is the seminal Young Adult Contemporary novel THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky. (It’s one of our Landmark Titles on Book Country.) It’s a great kickoff to the #BCReadalong because:

  1. It’s short! (213 pages)
  2. It’s “genderless” (which can be rare in the world of YA)
  3. It is (at least, IMHO) a terrific book! (But that is all I am going to say about it now. No spoilers here!)

Here’s how the inaugural #BCReadalong will work:

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be reading THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER and chatting about it in a few places online :

  • Book Country Discussion Board: We’re dedicating this discussion thread  to our #BCReadalong. Since I’m moderating the #BCReadalong for THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, I’ll ask questions about the book. Folks participating in the #BCReadalong should feel free to ask their own discussion questions below as well, and mention what you are noticing happening in the book that inspires your own writing.
  • Twitter: If you don’t already, follow @BookCountry. Watch out for the hashtag #BCReadalong and be sure to let us know your thoughts about the book!
  • Facebook: Watch out for updates about the #BCReadalong on our Facebook page, and share images + quotes about the book with friends.
  • Pinterest: We'll be pinning about PERKS on our Book Country Young Adult Fiction Pinterest board, too!

On Friday, August 30th, I’ll post takeaway tips for writers of all genres based on our discussion of THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER.

A few final thoughts:

  • THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER has more than a million copies in print. I found my copy at the New York Public Library. But it's also great to support writers by buying a copy of their book, which you can do here.
  • Spoiler alert! Because we want to have an open, candid conversation about the book, the Discussion thread might have spoilers. Be aware!
  • The blog post on August 30th might have a couple spoilers as well (though I will try my very hardest to work around them). If you subscribe to the blog, and don’t have time to read the book now but don’t want to find out too much yet, please be careful reading the takeaway tips post!

I am about to post my first discussion question below . . . Can’t wait to talk about THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER with Book Country members!

Lucy Silag
Posted: Sunday, August 18, 2013 12:36 PM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1356

To start us off with our #BCReadalong, I thought I'd ask a question which doesn't necessarily require having read THE PERKS OF A WALLFLOWER to answer:


THE PERKS OF A WALLFLOWER is a "novel in letters." The main character, Charlie, writes to a mysterious recipient he addresses simply as "Dear friend." So, really, it's more like a confessional, but because he's writing to a real person, he's perhaps a tiny bit more guarded then he would be in a diary.


In general, what do you think about using letters or correspondence as the structure for a story?


We've seen lots of popular books do this over the years, from Anne Frank's memoir THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL (who wrote the diary knowing others would read it, so again, that same feeling of writing a confessional that would have an audience), to THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL SOCIETY by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows, a historical novel of correspondence between a group of friends just after World War II.


What are the pros and cons of this strategy in creative writing?


How does this change the "point of telling" in your story?  (Great explanation of "point of telling" is here, via Marc Schuster's blog.)

Danielle Bowers
Posted: Monday, August 19, 2013 8:26 AM
Joined: 3/16/2011
Posts: 279

I'm very excited about this readalong.  I haven't read Perks yet, but I'm downloading it now.



Lucy Silag
Posted: Monday, August 19, 2013 9:35 AM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1356

Yay, @Danielle!! Cannot wait to chat with you about it!!


BC members: Hope to discuss PERKS with some more folks soon. I finished the book yesterday morning and I am bursting at the seams to talk to other writers about how Chbosky did his thing on the page.


Happy Monday!

Nevena Georgieva
Posted: Monday, August 19, 2013 10:46 AM
Joined: 2/9/2012
Posts: 427

I am about sixty pages in and loving it so far. 


The language of the book is deceptively simple, in a way that reminds me of John Green's writing style. The voice is by far the strongest aspect of the book for me; it's interesting to see how the narrator withholds information, and how the meaning is slowly unpacked, as if we access the character's head through a back door. It's incredibly intimate.


What I find intriguing about the epistolary style is the identity of the recipient of Charlie's letters, who's supposed to be older than him. I wonder if Charlie's writing to a future self or to a universal type of oblivious adult, who's become immune to the trials and tribulations of childhood.



--edited by Nevena Georgieva on 8/19/2013, 10:46 AM--

Nevena Georgieva
Posted: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 4:47 PM
Joined: 2/9/2012
Posts: 427

I finished the book about a week ago, and what I've been thinking about ever since is how masterfully the author has used foreshadowing and point of view in PERKS. 

Throughout the entire novel, you get the sense that something is really, truly wrong with the protagonist. He's in a shaky mental state, and bursts into tears all the time. So something is wrong... But what? 


The book is structured like a series of therapy sessions. Charlie talks about his day-to-day, circling around the real issue because he can't remember it. But the sessions--the process of writing it all out--has a therapeutic effect on him none the less. Sort of like a talking (writing) cure! In this case, the reader (ME AND YOU!) is the neutral therapist who's helping him through it. I guess the reason the recipient is nameless is so that the reader can insert himself or herself into the narrative and feel true empathy--become part of the book itself. For me, it's this interactivity that makes PERKS so powerful.

What do you guys think about the way Chbosky uses foreshadowing & unreliable narration in the book?

Lucy Silag
Posted: Friday, August 30, 2013 3:02 PM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1356

Hi everybody!


Nevena, Brandi, and I all read PERKS and put together some writing tips from it. Check them out here--they might be useful to you, and if you've read the book, chime into this thread!


Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend!



Book Country Community and Engagement Manager



Toni Smalley
Posted: Friday, September 6, 2013 3:10 PM

I usually don't like a book told via epistolary format, because I don't feel immersed in the story. I haven't read Perks yet, so I can't judge that particular book. One of the books I read this summer-which isn't told through letters, but utilized journal entries here and there-was Christopher Moore's You Suck. When Abby Normal writes in her journal about events, we don't get to experience, her skewed outlook on life, I-want-to-be-a-ghetto-thug attitude, and adoration of her vampire lords makes the telling instead of showing much more entertaining. So, for me, it depends on how entertaining the narrator is. Nevena pointed out the strength of voice in Perks, which I think is imperative when writing in this format.


Thanks for the article on "Point of Telling" and your analysis of Perks! I look forward to reading it.

Lucy Silag
Posted: Friday, September 6, 2013 3:14 PM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1356

@Toni--yes, absolutely Re: depending on how compelling the narrator's voice is.


Did you like YOU SUCK? If so, I will check it out!


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