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 YA (Young Adult) Genre spawns some of the most popular and influential books around. YA books manage to capture the trials and tribulations of being a teenager which nearly every teen can relate to as well as provide comfort to adults who were able to bypass their teenage troubles thanks to books in that genre. Whether its been a few years or a few days since you last read a YA book, revisit your teenage angst with these ten reads!
While there has been some debate as to whether Salinger’s novel is technically a YA Book or not, it certainly conveys teenage angst through the portrayal of the angsty-est teen in the literary universe, Holden Caulfield. Caulfield’s obsession with acknowledging the “phony” nature of his peers along with his rejection of conformity really captures the issues of identity and fitting in that many teenagers face.
Written in an epistolary style, The Perks of Being A Wallflower captures the social isolation felt by teenagers who can’t find their footing on the high school social ladder. From the hidden traumas that hold teenagers back from progressing to the inability to be whom everyone else wants them to be (while marinating their true self-image), this book is a must-read to understand teenage angst.
Hinton’s book The Outsiders has been celebrated for decades for its ability to convey the quintessential fight teenagers face. From fighting to maintain their identity in a community that prides conformity, to fighting to survive the social and economical strongholds in their culture, to fighting to protect those closest to them, to fighting against the negative voice in their heads that tries to hold them down, The Outsiders shows the external and internal struggles so many teens face.
With the success of Netflix’s adaptation of 13 Reasons Why, now is better than ever to read the book that started it all. Jay Asher’s haunting tale of depression, suicide, and the world left over is a must-read for those wishing to understand what could possibly drive someone, especially a young adult, to suicide. Moreover Asher’s ability to sensitively yet realistically portray the influential realities of high school including bullying, ostracism, peer pressure, and sexual assault makes 13 Reasons Why a must-read.
John Green’s award-winning book captures the desire many teenagers have of chasing the thrills of life and to stop holding back. Of course, living to the fullest often comes with strings attatched as Green’s protagonist soon learns after encountering an alluring new girl who promises to fulfill the excitement he seeks – while also, unbeknownst to him, will be his downfall. The complexity of love, gain, and loss which teens face is perfectly depicted in Looking for Alaska.
Though the authorship has seen controversy since its release, Go Ask Alice has often been cited as one of the most influential YA books in history. With it’s powerful recollection of teenage drug use coupled with an anonymous narrator, Go Ask Alice manages to depict relatable teenage issues that every reader can relate to and is so believable that readers can easily see themselves as “Alice.”
Fitting in is the goal many of us have in order to achieve acceptance, friendship, and a place for ourselves. unfortunately, fitting is often a synonym for conformity. High School (or life in general, to be honest) is a place where ecocentrism and individualism is often looked down upon. In Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli captures a haunting journey of achieving what you desire while trying to reject conformity and stay true to yourself.
I read this for the first time in the eighth grade and let me tell you, it blew me away. Ellen Hopkins is the master of teenage angst, using her unique and poetic writing style to depict the complexity of teenage sexuality, peer pressure, body image, drug use, trauma, dysfunctional family relations, and more. Crank introduces readers to Kristina, a character inspired by Hopkins’ real-life daughter, whose life is turned upside down when peer pressure leads to a drug addiction. Crank‘s ability to challenge the way we think about addicts by humanizing a teenage drug user, creating a character whom readers can empathize with, makes this a must-read.
Sandra Cisneros’ lyrical yet emotional vignettes provides eye-opening glimpses into self-discovery and sexual maturity. With her portrayal of a young Latina who fantasizes about escaping her poverty-stricken neighborhood and achieving freedom from the oppressive social and cultural forces that are ingrained in her, Cisneros captures the desire for freedom and escape that plaques young adults who are figuring out who they are and what they want (and deserve).
Sherman Alexie is a writer most known for his examination of race and role in one’s culture. He honors his writing style in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, in which he’s depiction of a young Native American teen who leaves his reservation for a mostly all-white school raises the question of how one can own up to who they are while rejecting the negative cultural stereotypes and expectations assigned to them. Alexie’s book is a must-read for anyone who has struggled with their identity and to those who never had to who could benefit from understanding the struggles of others.
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