Beginning the path into young adulthood can be daunting, terrifying and exciting all at once, and everyone has a different way of coping with it, I, like many, choose a good book, be it a classic that ventures through what it means to grow up, to a modern novel that explores aspects of ageing, love or work, family and friends, all equally exciting. There’s nothing better than a good coming of age book to propel you forwards into young adulthood, be it to help sort out your problems or make you feel better about them, it’s a great feeling to put your feet up and read about others entering a new phase in life, to understand and cope with your own journey from adolescence to adulthood.
Top Coming of Age Books:
The Catcher In The Rye, J.D. Salinger, 1951
16 year old New Yorker, Holden Caulfield, who is somehow both complicated and simple (like most of us), explores school in New York after leaving his prep school in Pennsylvania, the novel takes off from there and features self-discovery, teen angst and estrangement.
Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson, 1985
Adopted by evangelists, Jeanette is brought up in a religious home and goes on a journey of self and sexual discovery, liking women and wanting to be a missionary, struggling with inner-conflict and more than just strict disapproving guardians. This is an ultimate coming of age story for anyone who is struggling with family, religion and sexuality.
Less Than Zero, Bret Easton Ellis, 1985
Coming home to California during Winter Break at college, Clay reminices on his past and begins to feel alienated, untrusting and sceptical about his home town, embarking many nights of partying, Clay experiences uncertainty at first hand, developing a sense of angst that wasn’t there before he’d gone to college.
The Rotters Club, Jonathan Coe, 2001
An important novel in the coming of age genre, focused around three teenagers in the UK, growing up in the seventies and dealing with their own inner problems and self-exploration as well as coping with more worldly and worrying dilemmas.
Absolute Beginners, Colin MacInnes, 1959
From the perspective of teenage Londoner and freelance photographer, this book explores youth culture, music fashion and love and loss.
The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton, 1967
Greasers vs Socs, The poor vs The Rich, and the struggle around culture and societal differences. Focused around Ponyboy and the Greasers who are all growing up and going through their own problems, the novel focuses on the self-discovery of ponyboy who is struggling to mature. There’s also a fantastic movie adaption with the dreamy Patrick Swayze and Rob Lowe (not a substitute for the book, but definitely a great watch for a rainy day!)
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Becky Albertalli, 2015
Late teenager, not-openly-gay Simon goes through the drama of high school, figuring out college choices, surviving friendship turmoil, which is already a daunting time, on top of that there’s a blackmail and an unwarranted exploitation of his coming out, all whilst struggling to figure out the identity of his pen pal and himself. The film adaptation, “Love, Simon” is out now in cinemas and quite frankly an emotionally gripping film, if you have the time, it’s definitely worth the watch.
The Perks of Being A Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
Charlie begins the journey from adolescence to adulthood, encountering new friends, dating and family drama whilst struggling with his memories, all to grow up.
The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides. 1993
A group of men of reminisce on their teenage years and the girls who were burned into their memories, coming together on their shared adolescence and think about the sisters who’s family disintegrated and their lives that disappear.
To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960
This masterpiece of American Literature delves deep into exploring human behaviour and predjudice, be it innocence, cruelty, or kindness, the novel hits the nail on the head when it comes to being human and all the emotions that run with it.
Looking for Alaska, John Green, 2005
Confusing relationships, unrequited love and death, Miles experiences it all at Culver Creek Boarding Scool, whilst Looking For Alaska. Is it really surprising that John Green has created another wonderful coming of age novel?
Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell, 2012
Star-crossed lovers at just 16 years old, these adolescent crossing into adulthood misfits find comfort and solace in each other whilst trying to keep this love alive and lasting, they go through self-discovery through the discovery of each other.
Here Is Real Magic, Nate Staniforth, 2018
A bit of a different coming of age story but a must-read nonetheless, Magician Nate has spent most of his life and career trying to understand wonder, and after struggles and hopelessness in his professional career, he travels to India to uncover real magic and wonder. The reader sees the evolution in his thoughts and personality going from obsessed young magician, to a wanderer to finding himself through magic and progressing forward. A really inspiring and it-gets-better book for everybody!
The Good Die and The Bad Live On, Jonathan Dennis, 2012
Although more of a thriller than a coming of age story, this thriller still finds itself in this list, with ramifications of love and how all-consuming it can be, modern questions of morality, and questioning how much endurance of love and friendship is too much, this easy-read is a great reflection of introspection. There’s also the excitement of a riveting, out of this world, slightly demonic love story that’ll evoke goose bumps.
However, to counteract a good coming of age story there are also the coming of times books, where reading about radicalisation and burdens on society can be equally as exciting. Reading about societal change and evolution can be extremely fascinating for those who are always looking to move forwards in more than just their own lives but in the world all together.
May Day Manifesto 1968, Raymond Williams, Owen Jones, 2018
The original publication of the May Day Manifesto in 1967 collected the most influential radical voices of the era and created new ideas for socialist Britain. This book explores the crisis of austerity, the burden of empire and the failures to control rife capitalism, but it clears the path to a greater and equal future and how to adapt to positive societal change in the scheme of everything.
Although there are many other books that are equally as comforting and confrontational as coming of age and coming of times books, there’s sometimes nothing better than one of them. All of these books are must-reads for those experiencing troubles in the journey from adolescence to adulthood or just figuring out who you are. However, no matter what you enjoy reading, the only important thing is that you are reading and coping with this journey of self-exploration and discovery!