Stephen Chbosky is back! After a twenty year hiatus since his first novel, the best seller The Perks of Being a Wallflower, he is back with a new novel, Imaginary Friend. Released on October 1.
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Similar to the Perks, Imaginary Friend is set in a fictional town called Mill Grove in Western Pennsylvania, which is where Chbosky grew up. The story follows new kid in town Christopher, who is being haunted by a voice in his head. The voice tells Christopher creepy and disturbing stories, and it demands he build a tree house in the woods or else.
Chbosky attended Streams Elementary School, same as Christopher in the book. He even got the inspiration for the book by imagining himself standing outside that school, and looking up at a cloud, that just so happens to talk. He also drew some inspiration from two people he admires, George Romero, who was best known for his gruesome and satirical horror films. As well as Stephen King, who the book is dedicated too. So it’s safe to say this book has a lot of horror elements in it, which is completely different than the Perks, but will be just as amazing.
Since the novel’s release, Chbosky wrote and directed an adaptation of his novel and experienced a kick off in his career, writing Disney’s remake Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson, alongside Evan Spiliotopoulos and the comedy drama Wonder.
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In February, Book Seller wrote that Chbosky had a second book coming out, Imaginary Friend, which had been described as “a wildly ambitious, sweeping work of literary horror” that “focuses on Kate Reese, a single mother fleeing an abusive relationship by starting over in a new town, with her young son Christopher [whose] world begins to unravel after Christopher vanishes into the Mission Street Woods – where 50 years earlier an eerily similar disappearance occurred”. The twist is that her son “emerges six days later, unharmed but not unchanged, he brings with him a secret: a voice only he can hear and a warning of tragedy to come”.
Now, Chbosky announced on Twitter that the book is coming out October 1st in an astonishing video tweet. It looks like a picture before it transforms into the book cover.
It’s a work of art, and you should check it out below!
Dear Friends, Twenty years ago I published my first novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I have spent the last nine years working on my second. It's called Imaginary Friend. It comes out October 1st. https://t.co/Djm2646G2wpic.twitter.com/4Y7zJkd8ce
On this day in 1999, Stephen Chbosky‘s groundbreaking The Perks of Being a Wallflowerhit bookstores across the United States. A decade before the rise of YA, this novel was among the first YA publications to tackle issues of death, sexuality, drug use, and mental illness. Though many schools have banned the novel for its candid and earnest depiction of adolescence, audiences have spent two decades loving it for the same reason. Even twenty years after its publication, The Perks of Being a Wallflower remains a relevant and progressive depiction of growing up and the intense desire for understanding and connection those teenage years can bring.
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Even in a decade of increasing LGBT+ representation, many YA novels, films, and shows still struggle to include a queer character whose sexuality is not central to the narrative—essentially, a character whose sexuality doesn’t condemn them to plot hell as their partners leave and their parents punish. In 2018 (NINE years after Perks), Love, Simonbecame the first teen romantic comedy film to feature a gay protagonist and then make him happy. While queer stories aren’t entirely absent from the mainstream, they have one major thing in common: creators love to wring gay tears. (The Perks of Being a Wallflower may turn on the waterworks, but this isn’t the reason why.)
Today (when we ought to be more aware than ever before), many feel that YA novels struggle to responsibly depict mental illness. In 2017, Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Whyignited a controversy around its possible glorification of suicide. The novel tells the story of mentally ill teen Hannah, who, before her tragic suicide, records thirteen tapes meant for thirteen separate people—each of whom, she claims, is a direct cause of her untimely death. Critics lambasted Asher (who now stands accused of sexual assault) for framing the story in a manner suggesting that suicide is the only thing that can give Hannah a voice. Critics also feel that the show (and by extension, the book) fixates on the dramatic act of suicide rather than the constant reality of mental illnesses—a reality which is as much dramatic acting out as it is acting like nothing at all.
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In contrast, The Perks of Being a Wallflower presents a raw depiction of mental illness from a more clinical—and simultaneously more hopeful—perspective. Charlie’s derealization episodes and flashbacks make sense from both a narrative and psychological standpoint, and his PTSD is a feature of the story rather than its emotional core.
Though the epilogue contains references to sexual abuse, this isn’t how the book (or Charlie’s story) ends. Instead, the book’s most iconic line comes after readers come to understand all that Charlie has been through. He’s not alone but with his friends, a mentally ill person who reads as more person than illness. The novel concludes hopefully: “and in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”
The practice of banning books is nothing new —political, religious, and social organizations have led protests against authors and books for centuries —yet the practice is ongoing and criticism of it remains all the more relevant today. The debate surrounding this controversial subject has yet to find a conclusion —some people see book banning as unethical, while others see it as necessary at times. Regardless of the stance surrounding the issue, one thing remains clear: book banning has wide effects, good or bad. Banning books has a profound effect on the public and no one knows that more than authors.
Here are the responses of ten authors to the practice of banning books:
1. Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried
It’s not fair censorship. Censorship is supposed to be imposed on the condition that vital secrets are being compromised…Writing is a vent or an outlet for human emotion and human experience, human understanding of the world, it’s always been that way. Human beings are able to speak and to write…People have the option of listening or not listening but if the government is saying you can’t do it no one has the option of listening or not listening. It’s imposed silence. —O’Brien, Knock Magazine, 2012
2. Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
There’s a part in the book where Charlie witnesses date rape and I always found it interesting because some watchdog groups always cite that passage. I always find it so strange that they do because so often in the past people would say that passage is meant to titillate.My response has always been rape is violence, not sex, so how can it possibly titillate anybody? If it does then that warrants a much larger discussion than a book. The entire book is a blueprint for survival. It’s for people who have been through terrible things and need hope and support. The idea of taking two pages out of context and creating an atmosphere as perverse is offensive to me — deeply offensive. —Chbosky, NBC CT, 2015
3. Stephen King, IT
When a book is banned, a whole set of thoughts is locked behind the assertion that there is only one valid set of values, one valid set of beliefs, one valid perception of the world. It’s a scary idea, especially in a society which has been built on the ideas of free choice and free thought.—King, The Bangor Daily News, 1992
4. John Green, Looking for Alaska
I don’t believe that books, even bad books, corrupt us. Instead, I believe books challenge and interrogate. They give us windows into the lives of others and give us mirrors so that we can better see ourselves. And ultimately, if you have a worldview that can be undone by a novel, let me submit that the problem is not with the novel. —Green, On the Banning of Looking for Alaska, 2016
5. Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time
We have always liked banning. And Hitler and his cohorts started banning books and then to killing people. You have got to be very careful of banning. What you ban is not going to hurt anybody, usually. But the act of banning is. —L’Engle, PBS, 2000
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6. Alice Walker, The Color Purple
I know what The Color Purple can mean to people, women and men, who have no voice. Who believe they have few choices in life. It can open to them, to their view, the full abundance of this amazing journey we are all on…And even were it not ‘great’ literature, it has the best interests of all of us humans at heart. That we grow, change, challenge, encourage, love fiercely in the awareness that real love can never be incorrect. —Walker, Guernica, 2012
7. Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass
[T]hey never learn. The inevitable result of trying to ban something—book, film, play, pop song, whatever—is that far more people want to get hold of it than would ever have done if it were left alone. Why don’t the censors realize this?” —Pullman, The Guardian, 2008
8. Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak
Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance. —Halse Anderson, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, 2013
9. Judy Blume, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
In this age of censorship, I mourn the loss of books that will never be written, I mourn the voices that will be silenced-writers’ voices, teachers’ voices, students’ voices – and all because of fear. —Blume, Places I Never Meant To Be: Original Stories by Censored Writers, 1999
10. Ellen Hopkins, Crank
A word to the unwise.
Torch every book.
Char every page.
Burn every word to ash.
Ideas are incombustible.
And therein lies your real fear.
—Hopkins, Manifesto, 2010
What is your response to book banning? What are your favorite responses from public figures and/or authors? Let us know in the comments below.