The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming-of-age tale following the story of Charlie, a freshman in high school, and his struggles.
This is not your average young adult novel. It follows the usual themes of romance, and teenage angst, while unapologetically exploring suicide, mental disorders, death, and the effects of child abuse.
The story is told in an epistolary fashion whereby the main character, Charlie, is writing letters, to no one in particular, about his struggles on entering high school.
On a quest for friendship, Charlie quickly becomes allies with his English teacher, Mr. Anderson, who encourages Charlie to pursue his writing.
Although concluding it would be sad if Charlie’s only friend was his teacher, he quickly becomes acquainted with Patrick and his step-sister, Sam, who changed his life for the better.
Sam is a pivotal character in Charlie’s life and one of the main thread’s throughout the story is Charlie’s feelings for Sam.
If you are seeking similar novels to the Perks of Being a Wallflower, then you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, I have taken it upon myself to explore some modern and classic titles to add to your collection.
If you’re a fan of Perks of Being a Wallflower, you are sure to find books like The Catcher in the Rye, Looking for Alaska, All the Bright Places, The Secret Keeper, and Thirteen Reasons Why just as enjoyable.
Check out this list of similar books to Perks of Being a Wallflower to dive into.
Themes In Perks Of Being A Wallflower
One of the central themes in this novel is friendship. The novel begins with Charlie telling himself he needs to put himself out there. Thus, follows his journey in doing so.
At first, he befriends his teacher, although, after feeling as if this friendship is setting him back, he makes the necessary moves to put himself out there.
Socially awkward Charlie befriends fellow misfits Patrick and Sam, who assist him in his journey of overcoming his social misgivings and, ultimately, help him heal his traumas.
In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, sexual orientation is presented as a time when the characters begin exploring their orientation and attractions.
While relationships during this stage are often awkward and messy, it allows the characters to learn about themselves.
The novel presents mental illness as a non-linear recovery process – there are good times and bad, with some days being better than others, and the ways in which you approach this is all that matters.
Near the end of the novel, Charlie has a breakdown. Although, with the support of his therapist, friends, and family, he knows he will get through it.
Instead of presenting this breakdown as a failure, it is the start of a new chapter where Charlie no longer has to write his letters and can start making new memories.
Books Like Perks Of Being A Wallflower
Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher
Like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Thirteen Reasons Why has the central theme of suicide.
The novel follows the suicide of Hannah Barker who leaves thirteen recordings explaining the reasons for her suicide – these resemble 12 people, and one person is mentioned twice.
While the story centers around Hannah Barker, it is told through the perspective of Clay Jensen, who receives the tapes in his mailbox – each tape a contribution to her death.
Although, Clay’s main role is to distribute the tapes to the next person on the list.
Unable to prevent Hannah’s suicide, Clay reflects on his actions and, at the end of the story, helps his friend, Skye, overcome thoughts of suicide.
- The story is told in a non-linear method, jumping back and forth in time.
- Covers some important issues.
- Potentially triggering and graphic for some.
Themes: Repercussions, Betrayal, Gossip and Reputation, Parental Obliviousness, and Revenge.
Looking For Alaska – John Green
This ‘modern classic’ created worldwide anxiety among parents due to some controversial religious views, liberal use of profanities, and explicit scenes – more reason for teenagers to enjoy it!
The novel tells the tale of Miles Halter – Pudge –, an introverted teenager with a fascination for the Great Perhaps – discovering a method of moving on without any answer.
During his quest, he befriends many people, one of which includes a girl called Alaska. Unlike Pudge, Alaska is energetic and bright, albeit sometimes moody, too.
- Pudge takes us through his story, from his discovery of romance to religion as well as everything in between when growing up.
- Relatable characters.
- Some unlikable characters.
Themes: Identity, Mischief, Memory and Memorial, Loyalty and Forgiveness, and the Unknown and Mystery.
The Catcher In The Rye – J.D. Salinger
One of the main messages that both The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Catcher in the Rye share is that teenagers are generally different in how they may appear.
The main characters in both books struggle with judgment and sanity during their adolescent years.
The Catcher in the Rye follows the tale of Holden Caulfield, a confused sixteen-year-old boy, who tells his story from the confinements of a mental institution – this is never confirmed, although it is suggested.
The story he narrates takes place over two days in the previous December.
- While the novel was written in the 1950s, it contains a modern feel – if you’re looking to get into classics, this is a great book to get started.
- Plus, while the contents of the story may be more on the gloomy side, there are pockets of humor throughout.
- Hard to relate to the main character.
Themes: Alienation, Innocence, Adulthood, Loneliness, Authority, Depression, and Helplessness.
The Scent Keeper – Erica Bauermeister
Some books have the ability to transport you to a specific time or location; with their ornate prose evoking feelings of familiarity.
However, open up the pages of The Scent Keeper and you will be fully immersed in the life of Emmeline and you’ll start believing you’re smelling the scents she is describing.
This tale follows the story of Emmeline, and her father, who live on a remote island in the Pacific Northwest.
Emmeline’s father is a scientist who has dedicated his life to studying and collecting scents. In fact, these scents take up an entire wall in their cabin!
Through scent, Emmaline’s father teaches her about nature and the fragrance’s role in this.
Emmaline leads a happy and magical life until, one day, something disturbs this and her fantasy becomes crashing down.
This is where her journey of discovery begins, starting with learning how to live in a small coastal town, away from everything she thought she knew.
- Portrays the importance of scent
- The ending comes to a screeching halt.
Themes: Insanity, Deception and Secrecy, Power of Sense, and Memory.
All The Bright Places – Jennifer Niven
This tale follows the lives of two seemingly different characters who are more similar than they may believe.
Before her sister’s death, Violet hung around with the popular kids, however, she has since become withdrawn with survivor’s guilt.
Theodore, on the other hand, is the class clown and weirdo. He struggles with an (undiagnosed) bipolar affective disorder and has an unhealthy obsession with death.
One day, both characters come face-to-face when they both – unknowingly – climb the school tower with the intention of jumping.
Both characters talk each other out of jumping, and thus; begin their journey of love and support.
- Adolescence and mental health play a huge role in this book with the main message being ‘it’s ok to not be ok’, similar to The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
- Hard-to-read themes.
Themes: Grief, Guilt, Suicide, Love, Mental Illness, Family Trauma, and Wandering.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a book every teenager should read every teenager should read. The novel follows the story of Charlie, an outcast who is ultimately looking for friends – something everyone struggles with from time to time.
This book is packed with relatable characters, themes, and what it is truly like growing up; with all the different intricacies that follow – and, ultimately, it is ok to not be ok sometimes.
If you’re a fan of Perks of Being a Wallflower and looking for similar books, then you are sure to like one of these books outlined above.
Hopefully, this guide has informed you about the different books containing similar themes and messages as The Perks of Being a Wallflower – you’re sure to want to add these to your reading list.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is A Wallflower?
A wallflower is someone who does not actively take part in social events, rather, they are on the edge, observing. In other words, an outcast.
What Age Rating Is The Perks Of Being A Wallflower?
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is suitable for teenagers over the age of 15 since it follows some hard-to-swallow themes and plots.
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