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"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Jordyn A. (Eng. 12)

picture of the book cover of perks of being a wallflower

Jordyn A. (English 12) did a compare/contrast study of "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" and "Looking for Alaska".  Both of these books were chosen as therapeutic tools - or Bibliotherapy - as they address reading and critical thinking skills but also provide opportunities for our students to identify with the protagonists struggles.

     "Within the novels, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Looking For Alaska, it seemed the similarities aligned just as quickly as the differences clashed. Regarding the writing style, The Perks of Being a Wallflower began and ended in an epistolary form. The main character, Charlie, wrote in letters to an anonymous recipient all throughout the story. Despite both novels being written in the first-person point of view, Looking for Alaska was certainly not in letters. It was written as the main character, Miles’s, point of view and inner monologue.

     Looking For Alaska was distinctly written in a before and after format. With a physical countdown to events that had not occurred yet, they eventually were revealed in the “after” section and gravely change the storyline. However, The Perks of Being a Wallflower’s story was more discreetly developed in a before and after format. When hidden experiences which had already taken place in the early years of Charlie’s life were discovered, the story then changed dramatically. Both stories took place 

     Both novels were coming of age stories and focused on high school experience for the main characters. The Perks of Being a Wallflower allowed each character to distinctly develop at their own pace. Nearly everyone socially progressed, but specifically, Charlie and Miles progressed with more notable milestones. The two began as antisocial teens who felt like they weren’t quite fitting in anywhere and ended up finally finding the friends they never knew they needed. Miles set out on a mission to discover what he was longing for. He began high school as a freshman in a boarding school in Alabama. Once the time came where he had found the friends he always wished for, tragedy struck and his love interest is taken from him when she dies. Looking For Alaska touched on mental health, but the reason for this was the character’s explanation as to why Alaska died the way she did. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, post-traumatic stress, trauma, high-risk behaviors, and many other symptoms of various potential illnesses came into the story. The climax of John Green’s novel occurred around the middle of the story, while Stephen Chbosky incorporated the climax toward the ending.

     Looking For Alaska’s Miles, Chip, Alaska, Takumi, and Lara all had similarities to The Perks of Being a Wallflower’s characters. For instance, Miles and Charlie were both new freshmen who happened to be rather intelligent and antisocial. Charlie was a shy boy, new to high school with little to no friends. He had suppressed hidden trauma that unknowingly shaped him into the closed-off boy he became. However, he was very aware of the fact that he yearned for friends that would have his back and understand him. Miles was also somewhat socially independent. He was unsure of what he wanted, let alone needed."

      Although both novels were written beautifully and addressed many relatable topics for young people everywhere, I enjoyed The Perks of Being a Wallflower a bit more. Each character blatantly had their struggles and eventually confronted their demons. When looking back on many of Charlie’s experiences and struggles, I find that I relate to quite a few of them. From desperately looking for friends, to shoving family issues under the rug, and falling apart when finally coming to terms with personal traumas, this book has allowed me to feel visible and understood.  I would recommend both books, but definitely The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The content is so necessary for young adults to be aware of and learn about. Novels like these are extremely helpful in order to prevent or identify struggles that readers may be experiencing but do not understand.

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908.832.7200 ♦ Fax: 908.832.9772 ♦ 11 Spencer Lane ♦ Annandale, NJ 08801

HUNTERDON PREPARATORY SCHOOL IS A, not-for-profit, day school serving students between the ages of 12 and 21
 from over 40 school districts in New Jersey. We are located near the town of Clinton in west central NJ.

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