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10 Perks of Being a Wallflower (by Heather B)

“We accept the love we think we deserve.”

I first read The Perks of Being a Wallflower soon after it was published and was completely taken.  I passed it to my younger brother, still in high school, who said something like, “If they gave us stuff like that to read in school, I might still be reading novels.”  I listened to the audiobook (which I especially love to do with epistolary novels) and have definite opinions on the different narrators that have recorded it.  I am so glad that it’s been made into a movie and especially glad that Chbosky was the screenwriter and director.  It’s a book that I’ve replaced for wear numerous times over the years in every collection I’ve overseen, and was glad when it was finally released in hardcover this summer.  I’m a fan.  I’m betting that you have fans in your library, or you soon will.  What to tide them over with until their copy comes in?  What do you point them toward when they want to go back and see the movie again but are out of cash?  These are not all typically classified as YA, but as Perks is one of the greatest all-time crossover novels, I think that’s fitting.

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.” 

1.      The Absolutely True Story of a Part Time Indianby Sherman Alexie

He doesn’t fit in, he’s surprised to suddenly be a veritable celebrity, he knows there’s a tragic past, but he just keeps on going, plus there’s wry humor and books!  Perfect readalike, right?  Aw, heck.  Give them The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven for good measure and they’ll love you forever.  Alexie didn’t begin as a YA author, but his work so clearly brings to life the uneasy, exhilarating, devastating, and ultimately hopeful (in spite of the circumstances) nature of the teen years it will resonate with Perks fans [can we call them Perkies? Is that cool?].

2.      Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

One of Charlie’s most endearing elements is his ability to articulate his introspection.  Readers who enjoyed that about Perkswill love Dante, who comes from a quiet home with secrets, much like Charlie, and who also uncovers some important realities about himself though the help of a friend who is so open and giving and true to himself and his sexuality, Perkies will be certain to be reminded of Patrick.

3.     Black Swan Green by David Mitchell

Jason is thirteen in 1982, and like Charlie a decade later, he is befuddled by first love, bullying, his parents, and the world around him as he navigates this time in his life with insight, introspection, and a love for music.  The upcoming release of adaptation of Mitchell’s The Cloud Atlas may encourage more teens to pick this one up, but you’ll likely have to offer it fist.

4.      Fat Kid Rules the World by K L Going

The music, the friendships, the fear of alienation, the risks, the ones who finally pull through for you – these similarities will endear Perkies to this Printz Honor title with a recent indie film that teens can now work to bring to their own home town theater – Sam would be all over that, wouldn’t she? http://www.tuggthefatkid.com/ (The fact that this movie is having a hard time getting distribution was a part of our recent YA Lit and Body Image discussion, check it out.)

5.      Harold and Maude (1971)

Perkies will wonder where this cult classic has been all their lives.  From the darkest of dark humor to the unusual entertainment habits to the off-kilter romance, to the superb blend of tragic and life-affirming hopefulness, this 1971 favorite will find a fast audience if you point them here.

6.      Little Manhattan (2005)

Yes, it’s about a couple of nearly 11 year olds. Just hear me out. The sense of wonder and discovery, heartbreak and recovery that Charlie experiences is so poignant.  The tweens in Little Manhattan experiencing love for the very first time will mirror that feeling for viewers.

7.      Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas

Thomas is another author who took his talents to the screen (Chbosky was a screenwriter before he was a novelist; Thomas is well known as the creator of Veronica Mars).  Rats Saw God, though shot through with more anger and ennui than Perks, carries a similar tension with its structure.  Here, high school student Steve is trying to write his way out of failing out of high school with an assignment for his counselor.  In his essay, he looks back on love, betrayal, and his feelings about his parents.

8.      The Rage in Placid Lake (2003)

How does the son of infinitely permissive uber-hippies rebel?  Placid Lake graduates from high school and gets a job in insurance of course.  Ben Lee and Rose Byrne star in this quirky look at conformity and individuality. 

9.      Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

This is another novel that feels very intimate upon listening to the audiobook.  If you haven’t yet, treat yourself to the experience.  Like Charlie, Melinda in Speak undergoes a trauma she cannot articulate until she undergoes an awakening and transformation.  Many teens will have already read this, but it is a book that, like Perks, bears a reread. 

10.  Rocky Horror Picture Show* (1975)

The rollicking shows Charlie, Patrick, and Sam take part in are such great scenes.  If teens read Perks without having seen Rocky Horror, surely they will be seeking it out, either on the dvd shelf or at an elusive midnight showing. 

*breaking with alpha order here to end with the ultimate next step for Perkies.
“And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.” 
What’s on your list for Perkies? Share in the comments. And tell us your stories about reading Perks or getting a teen to read Perks.  I don’t know about you, but this has always been one of my most stolen titles (along with Rats Saw God).