The Next Best Book Club discussion

TNBBC's Lists > Best Coming-of-Age Novels

Comments Showing 1-36 of 36 (36 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Belinda (new)

Belinda Fair warning, this might contain spoilers.

If I had to choose my top five coming-of-age novels, these would be them:

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg

Okay, I know that this was based on her actual life, but most stores shelve it in fiction, so here's why I love it. The protagonist is ready to cash it in, and she's barely begun. She has to hit bottom before she can see what she wants and it's a long way down. I don't want to give too much away, but there's a scene wherein she realizes that she wants to be an artist and for anyone who's gone through that, it's so powerful.

Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger

A novel much maligned because its helm is taken up by hipsters and young kids who feel "misunderstood" or simply slandered because "nothing happens in it." However, it's a moving story because nothing happens. The point is that Holden feels malnourished by all the things which life spoon feeds him, but everyone else he knows happily swallows it. And when you reach that point and move past it, figuring out how you're going to make things work for yourself, it means that much more.

This Side of Paradise - F. Scott Fitzgerald

The book that made Fitzgerald famous... Amory Blaine starts the story as a vain know-it-all, but ends as a young man who knows nothing, but himself. Yet during his journey, he finds love (quite a few times), humility, and valor.

A Girl Named Charlie Lester - Carissa Halston

I loved this book so much, I already talked about it in two other threads. The chapters alternate between Charlie's young adulthood and her mid-twenties, showing the reader how she navigated (not always smoothly) from one point to the other. It hits all the right points, being both funny and sad, sometimes simultaneously.

Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides

Even though this book's timeline spans three generations, it's only because those people contributed to Cal, as a character. Not since Francie Nolan (in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) has a character been so shaped by her predecessors. The best part of Cal's transformation is her acceptance. As soon as she realizes she's a boy, all that anxiousness and grief ebbs away. When he explains his actions to his Mom, it's so freeing.

message 2: by Emma (last edited Aug 21, 2008 08:16PM) (new)

Emma My favourite by far is A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews. The protagonist is just so immediately identifiable, fragile but resilient, clever and unguided. It's been dismissed as a female version of A Catcher in The Rye, and while there are definitely parallels, that analysis is overly simplistic and doesn't do the book justice.

message 3: by She'Davia (new)

She'Davia Williams (redsoxocd) I planned on reading "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" this summer, but never got around to it.

Besides the Catcher in the Rye, my favorite coming of age novel is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

message 4: by Belinda (new)

Belinda Emma, A Complicated Kindness (after looking in up on wikipedia) sounds great. I'm such a mark for tough love.

She'Davia, you should definitely read 'I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.' You won't regret it.

message 5: by Nikki (new)

Nikki Boisture | 121 comments All gret recommendations! I really love A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

message 6: by Chloe (new)

Chloe (countessofblooms) | 1128 comments I'm so glad that no one has recommended A Separate Peace. I really just have no patience for it but it seems that every high school teacher I've ever known has been completely enamored with it.

message 7: by Lorena (new)

Lorena (lorenalilian) Would "secret life of bees" fit in this category? I liked that book a lot.

message 8: by Melanie (new)

Melanie One that I like is Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid.

message 9: by Jennie (new)

Jennie | 49 comments The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon

The Catcher in the Rye

Shampoo Planet by Douglas Coupland

Harry Potter series

His Dark Materials trilogy

Homecoming/Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt

message 10: by Chloe (new)

Chloe (countessofblooms) | 1128 comments Whoa, Starlight! Shampoo Planet? Really?

message 11: by JT (new)

JT (jtishere) Belinda, I loved This Side of Paradise. I read it for the first time earlier this year as my kickoff for reading all of Fizgerald's novels. Up next is my second read of Great Gatsby!

message 12: by Jennie (new)

Jennie | 49 comments Well, Logan... maybe not "best" compared to the other books listed, but best in my mind, you know? I guess I was coming of age when I read it, and I was charmed by it. : )

Does everyone really consider This Side of Paradise up there with Fitzgerald's best? I thought it started out well, but petered out by the end. I'm a big Gatsby fan though and love a lot of his short stories -- The Diamond as Big as the Ritz, Bernice Bobs Her Hair, The Offshore Pirate.

message 13: by Belinda (new)

Belinda JT, I'm envious. I wish I could reread Fitzgerald as if they were new to me.

Starlight, I think Amory really grows in TSoP, even though it's mainly learning not to be such a snit.

And even though Gatsby is really about Nick, I feel like Amory's journey is more realistic. At least, as real as Fitzgerald gets.

message 14: by Emma (new)

Emma I like that you included His Dark Materials as a coming of age story, Starlight. It really does read that way but I've never heard anyone discuss it as such before.

message 15: by Andrew (new)

Andrew (sir_reads_a_lot) | 509 comments One that is literally a coming of age story is Once Upon a Quincenera. Which I really enjoyed.

message 16: by Liz (new)

Liz (busy91) The Outsiders

The Judy Blume (girlie) books

Harry Potter

Well I don't read a lot of these type of books.

message 17: by Joanna (last edited Feb 15, 2009 11:26PM) (new)

Joanna Compton-Mys (coldsnap) | 101 comments Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie
What a fantastic book for young boys! Great great book!

message 19: by Allison (new)

Allison (inconceivably) Yeah Fiona, you got it.

When I saw the name of this thread, I clicked on it and scrolled through just to see if you'd replied yet, because I wanted to laugh when I saw you promote ICTC. You should get some royalties if Dodie Smith still has surviving relatives.

message 20: by Sophie (new)

Sophie | 1 comments I really enjoyed reading a complicated kindness and a seperate peace. I read them for my english class but i was wonder if anyone could suggest ideas on how i could compare these two books for an essay ..!?
Any topic ideas ...?
similarities and differences ?

message 21: by Liz (new)

Liz Excellent topic! I'd have to go with
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
The Harry Potter series
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

message 22: by Carol (last edited Dec 05, 2009 09:13PM) (new)

Carol To Kill A Mockingbird-Harper Lee

The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter-Carson McCullars

message 23: by Alice (new)

Alice (aliceg) | 254 comments My favourite coming of age novel is How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (i'm not sure that it would strictly speaking be a coming of age but never mind!)

Catcher in the Rye is one of my favourite books also.

message 24: by Alisha Marie (new)

Alisha Marie (endlesswonderofreading) | 715 comments Alice wrote: "My favourite coming of age novel is How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (i'm not sure that it would strictly speaking be a coming of age but never mind!)

Catcher in the Rye is one of my favourite books..."

That's good to know as I have both books on my bookshelf.

message 25: by JenniferD (new)

JenniferD (jooniperd)

I would like to suggest an excellent coming of age novel: Out Stealing Horses: A Novel by Per Petterson. It was one of my favourite reads this past year. Wonderful story and writing!

message 26: by Carol (new)

Carol Glad to know that Jennifer. It will be moved up on my list.

message 27: by Kate (new)

Kate Quinn "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" is one of the best - a girl's experience of poverty, school, college, romance, work, and death.

message 28: by Aubrey (new)

Aubrey | 4 comments I absolutely loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I remember it being one of the first books I read for school that I actually enjoyed. It felt wrong somehow!

But I have to say my favorite is Goodnight, Mr. Tom by Michelle Margorian. Will is still a child when the book ends, but the growth and healing he experiences throughout the story is truly magical. The book deals with difficult issues with a frank yet tender manner, and reading it always helps me feel more optimistic about how the world will turn out.

message 29: by Emma (last edited Dec 15, 2009 09:35PM) (new)

Emma Can I also plug Lullabies for Little Criminals? Quite similar to A Complicated Kindness but I unashamedly have a weakness for that kind of thing. Quick reads both.

message 30: by Lindz (new)

Lindz (miss_bovary00) I would also have to say Northanger Abbey is a charming coming of age story. Also Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon.

message 31: by [deleted user] (new)

With Fiona & co. on I Capture the Castle. Another good one is The Way I Found Her by Rose Tremain

message 32: by Kate (new)

Kate Quinn "Witch of Blackbird Pond" is a good coming of age book - the heroine goes from indulged and impetuous rich girl to a steady and courageous young woman.

message 33: by Brenda (new)

Brenda | 266 comments My favourites:
Harriet the Spy by Fitzhugh - for girls
City Boy by Wouk - for boys

message 34: by Catamorandi (new)

Catamorandi (wwwgoodreadscomprofilerandi) | 1045 comments I feel that Anne of Green Gables is a good coming of age story.

message 35: by El (new)

El Brenda wrote: "My favourites:
Harriet the Spy by Fitzhugh - for girls
City Boy by Wouk - for boys


Brenda, two of my Top 5 favorites!

message 36: by Paul (new)

Paul Hollis | 194 comments I'd suggest Hey Joe by Ben Neihart
The Best Little Boy in the World by john Reid(even though it's nonfiction)
Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae brown
Adventure of Huckleberry Finn by Twain

back to top