Update: After reading The Hunger Games, I had to add it. Scroll down for a short description.
Here’s a list that could go on and on and on, kind of like adolescence for some people. I decided it was long enough when I got tired of finding new titles for it. Most are novels, but I’ve added some nonfiction titles, as well, mostly as an excuse to be able to included one of my favorites: Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt.
After Tupac and D Foster
Jaqueline Woodson, 2008
Young adult novel focusing on the lives of three girls bonding over the music of Tupac Shakur in 1990s New York.
Alice, I Think
Susan Juby, 2003
Fictional diary of Alice, a teen with hippy parents. She is trying to find her place in the world, with the assistance of adults who seem to need a bit of help themselves.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
Winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Two cousins team up to create comic book adventures, fighting their own version of WWII on paper.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
Judy Blume, 1970
Recently (April, 2010) re-released in its approximately 3,000th print run, Blume’s book explores the age-old question: If there is a god, why doesn’t he or she give girls the breasts they want when they want them. Could it be so hard? Okay, it’s a little deeper than that.
Sharon Flake, 2005
In this YA title, an inner city boy is left in the woods to survive on his own, his father’s effort to toughen him up in hopes he’ll be able to survive the violent environment that has already claimed the life of his brother.
Beasts of No Nation
Uzodinma Iweala, 2005
The story of an African (no country is named) boy’s involvement with a group of guerilla fighters during his country’s civil war.
Myla Goldberg , 2001
A girl’s unexpected spelling bee success causes equally unexpected consequences for her family.
Black Swan Green
David Mitchell, 2007
I’ve read this one and it’s quite well-written. The protagonist is a 13-year-old British boy who is struggling with a stutter, his parents’ dissolving marriage & the anguish of being 13. Mitchell captures perfectly the depth of the agony inherent in the every-minute decisions of adolescence that can make or break your standing with the peer group. The wrong choice of facial expressions, wrong choice of words, wrong poster on your wall, can lead to the worst sort of shunning and torment. But there is profound growth and insight as well.
Peter Moore, 2002
A high school misfit lands a job as a reader for a blind young woman. Insights ensue.
Rakesh Satyal, 2009
12-year-old Indian-American, Kiran, is the 10th reincarnation of Krishnaji. Isn’t he? He believes he must be. Why else would his skin be turning blue?
The Bone Collector’s Son
Paul Yee, 2004
Set in early 20th-century Vancouver, Canada, the story of a boy who must deal with the facts of his father’s unpleasant profession, the ghosts who haunt his employer’s house, and the racism directed at Chinese immigrants.
Bringing the Boy Home
N.A. Nelson, 2008
Two boys from a fictional Amazonian tribe prepare for their coming 13th birthdays, and the accompanying ritual/survival test. One of the boys has been adopted and raised by an American.
The Catcher in the Rye
J.D. Salinger, 1951
You’ve probably heard of it. 16-year-old Holden Caulfield’s three days in New York.
The Chosen One
Carol Lynch Williams, 2009
Teenaged life in a polygamous cult. The protagonist is a 13-year-old girl chosen to marry her 60-year-old uncle. Eww.
Robert B. Parker, 2007
The noted crime writer turns to YA writing here. The Owls are a high school basketball team. Basketball, courtship, and a mystery surrounding a teacher, in post WWII America.
An Egg on Three Sticks
Jackie Fischer, 2004
San Francisco in the early 70s with a mentally ill mother.
Farewell Babylon: Coming of Age in Jewish Baghdad
Naim Kattan, trans. Sheila Fischman, 2005
Mid-19th-century Baghdad, that would be.
Alice Hoffman, 2005
Coming of age in an all female tribe of Amazonian warriors.
Getting in Tune: A Novel
Roger L. Trott , 2008
Written by a former music critic, the story of a young rock band in the 1970s.
A Girl Made of Dust
Nathalie Abi-Ezzi, 2008
Coming of age near Beirut during Lebanon’s civil war.
Girls in Peril: A Novella
Karen Lee Boren, 2006
1970s Lake Michigan area, a group of girls, don’t know much more. If you’ve read it, maybe you can enlighten us.
Francine Prose , 2008
If you’re 13 years old and your older sister has recently died, it’s probably a bad idea to get involved with the sister’s boyfriend. But it sounds like a good idea for a novel.
Guitar Highway Rose
Brigid Lowry, 2003
Australian teens run away together. Poetry and guitars, hitchhiking and hippies.
Bethany Griffin, 2008
If you were inferring something from the title, you were right. A bit more risque than your average YA coming of age novel.
Have Space Suit – Will Travel
Robert A. Heinlein, 1958
I loved this book when I was about 13 (considerably later than 1958.) I wonder if I would now. I remember a boy winning a space suit in a contest , but I think there was something about a basket of money on the kitchen counter that really hooked me.
Holding My Breath
Sidura Ludwig, 2007
The story of a girl pursuing dreams of being an astronomer, while living with multiple generations of her Jewish family in Manitoba in the 1950s.
The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins, 2008
In a future dystopian North America, the one thing that remains from our culture is reality television. See, I told you it was dystopian. Two youths from each of the 12 “districts” are selected each year to participate in the Hunger Games, a televised battle to the death, with only one survivor. Participation and viewership are mandatory. But the two teens from District 12, Katniss and Peeta, turn the games in an unprecedented direction. There are two more books in this extremely well-written trilogy: Catching Fire and Mockingjay.
In Search of Mockingbird
Loretta Ellsworth, 2007
After receiving her deceased mother’s diary, which reveals a passion for the book To Kill a Mockingbird, a 16-year-old girl hops a bus to go meet Harper Lee.
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, 2009
Part of the Alice series. She’s 17 here.
Charlotte Bronte, 1847
I can include this if I want. After all, Jane is 10 when the book begins; it’s not all her relationship with the mysterious Mr. Rochester.
Mal Peet, 2005
Fictitious interview with a fictitious world-famous goalkeeper for a World Cup championship soccer team. He recounts being taught the game by a spirit being in the rain forest.
Michael Spooner, 2005
In 1830s North Dakota, a girl who is half Scottish, half Mandan struggles with identity, smallpox and war.
Last Dance at the Frosty Queen
Richard Allen Uhlig, 2007
A high school senior is desperate to escape his small Kansas town, circa 1988.
The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine
April Lurie, 2008
A 16-year-old boy copes with being the subject of a friend’s documentary while trying to help his falling-apart family to get a grip on itself.
Life at These Speeds
Jeremy Jackson, 2002
A high school track star copes with being the only surviving team member after his teammates die in an accident.
Lili: A Novel of Tianenmen
Annie Wang, 2001
Growing up in Beijing during the time of the famous events in Tianenmen Square.
Looking for Lucy Buick
Rita Murphy, 2005
Girl who has been raised by a family who found her in the back seat of a Buick sets off to find her biological parents.
The Lucky Place
Zu Vincent, 2008
Set in the 1950s & 60s. A girl finds her loyalties divided between her father and step-father.
Me, the Missing, and the Dead
Jenny Valentine, 2008
If you were a 16-year-old Londoner who has been accidentally left in charge of an urn of ashes, what would you think? What if your father had mysteriously disappeared? Would you start to think things, such as “The person who used to be these ashes is talking to me?” Quite possibly.
No Laughter Here
Rita Williams-Garcia, 2004
Female genital mutilation comes to Queens, New York. No laughter indeed.
On Rough Seas
Nancy Hull, 2008
In 1940, a 14-year-old British boy, feeling in need of redemption, involves himself at Dunkirk.
One Lonely Degree
C.K. Kelly Martin, 2009
Sexual assault and love triangles provide more than enough struggle for a teenager.
Roland Smith, 2008
A 14-year-old sets out to climb Mount Everest.
Colson Whitehead, 2009
Autobiographical novel. A teen spends his school year at a prep school and his summers in the African-American community of Sag Harbor.
The Sand Fish: A Novel From Dubai
Maha Gargash, 2009
In 1950s Dubai, a 17-year-old girl unsuccessfully tries to flee an arranged marriage.
Sonny’s House of Spies
George Ella Lyon, 2004
Set in post-WWII Alabama. A boy tries to solve the mystery of his father’s departure.
The Speed of Light
Ron Carlson, 2003
Two 12-year-old boys spend a summer performing scientific experiments. And if a few things get blow up in the process…
The Story Sisters: A Novel
Alice Hoffman, 2009
The three Story sisters lead tragic and magical lives. I haven’t read this, but since it’s written by Alice Hoffman, I will eventually.
Tell Me Lies
Patrick Cooper, 2007
Life in the counterculture in 1969 England.
Thicker Than Water: Coming-of-Age Stories by Irish and Irish-American Writers, 2001
12 writers, 12 stories. You know you want to read it. Who can resist Irish storytelling?
To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee, 1960
Do I really need to give a synopsis? The perfect novel. That’s my summary.
Walk Away Home
Paul Many, 2002
A teen who loves to walk, walks across the state to live with his aunt, who lives in a commune.
The Wednesday Wars
Gary D. Schmidt, 2007
Set in 1967. On Wednesday afternoons, all of 11-year-old Holling’s classmates attend either Hebrew school or catechism class. As the sole Presbyterian, he’s left alone with the teacher.
The Winter People
Joseph Bruchac, 2002
The experiences of a 14-year-old Abenaki boy during the French and Indian Wars.
Wish You Well
David Baldacci, 2007
Not one of Baldacci’s usual legal thrillers. In 1940, two children move from New York City to their great-grandmother’s farm, following the deaths of their parents.
Odo Hirsch, 2004
A boy sets out on his coming of age journey only to find himself in slavery.
Frank McCourt, 1996
On the first page of his memoir Frank McCourt says “People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version.” McCourt’s version contains almost unbearable heartbreak and misery, but very little martyrdom. When you get past the heartbreaking parts, keep your hanky handy for the tears of laughter. Often the two elements mingle. A brilliantly-written book. I said up-front it’s one of my favorites.
Bat Boy: My True Life Adventures Coming of Age With the New York Yankees
Matthew McGough, 2005
Talk about getting to live your dream.
The Bitter Sea: Coming of Age in a China Before Mao
Charles N. Li, 2008
May you live in interesting times. Li has.
The Cat With the Yellow Star: Coming of Age in Terezin
Susan Goldman Rubin, 2006
A book for younger readers – middle school ageish. The story of a Jewish girl who starred as the cat in the children’s opera Brundibar, performed by children in the Terezin concentration camp.
Coming of Age in Samoa
Margaret Mead, 1928
Did Margaret Mead know what she was talking about? People are still debating.
First Darling of the Morning: Selected Memories of an Indian Childhood
Thrity Umrigar, 2004
Coming of age in Bombay in the 60s and 70s, attending Catholic school amidst a largely Hindu population.
Freddie and Me: A Coming-of-Age (Bohemian) Rhapsody
Mike Dawson , 2008
Freddie Mercury as role model. Hmmmm..
How I Learned to Snap: A Small-Town Coming-Out and Coming-of-Age Story
Kirk Read, 2003
The small town would be Lexington, VA.
The Last Gentleman Adventurer: Coming of Age in the Arctic
Edward Beauclerk Maurice, 2005
A 16-year-old British youth finds himself working among the Inuit in the 1930s.
Loon: A Marine Story
Jack McLean, 2009
Experiences of a teenaged Marine in Vietnam.
Miss American Pie: A Diary of Love, Secrets, and Growing Up in the 1970s
Margaret Sartor, 2006
Memoir based on diary entries kept during the author’s adolescence in the deep south.
Moon Mother, Moon Daughter: Rituals and Myths That Celebrate a Girl’s Coming of Age
Janet Lucy, 2002
Synopsis is in the subtitle.
My Little Red Book
An anthology of stories about first periods.
Nylon Road: A Graphic Memoir of Coming of Age in Iran
Once Upon a Quincanera: Coming of Age in the United States
Julia Alvarez, 2008
An examination of the Latina 15th birthday celebration.
An Open Book: Coming of Age in the Heartland
Michael Dirda, 2003
Coming of age through reading.
Point of Departure: Nineteen Stories of Youth and Discovery
A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Survival, Learning, and Coming of Age in Prison
R. Dwayne Betts, 2009
Sentenced as an adult at age 16, Betts grew up in prison.
Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx
Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, 2003
Sixteen: Stories About That Sweet and Bitter Birthday
I have this in my non-fiction list, but am not sure whether any of the stories are memoirs, or if they’re all fiction.
Snow Falling in Spring: Coming of Age in China During the Cultural Revolution
Moying Li, 2008
1960s China was not an easy place to grow up.
Thin Ice: Coming of Age in Canada
Bruce McCall, 1997
Sure, it’s easy to write a memoir if you grew up in the midst of the Cultural Revolution, or had to escape a polygamist cult. But Canadians who are bad at hockey can be interesting, too.
Things the Grandchildren Should Know
Mark Everett, 2008
What do you do if you lose your entire family in short period of time at a young age? Start an indie rock band, of course.
Writes of Passage: Coming of Age Stories and Memoirs From the Hudson Review
I have arbitrarily put all anthologies on my non-fiction list.
5 thoughts on “Book List: Coming of Age Books”
You left out This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff, and the Harry Potter series.
Thanks for the suggestions!
This is great !
You also omitted this book, A MEMORY OF TREES by Kyle Kelly. A moving, sad, funny, gritty story about a Kansas boy who was raised in abject poverty and suffered parental abuse. Worth the read if you like true to life coming of age tales, and real insight into the inner thoughts of a 13 year old boy as he searches for love & acceptance in the cold hearted, wonderful, exasperating world of adolescence. On Amazon and also at http://www.amemoryoftrees.com