A Northern Light Book Cover

A Northern Light

A Northern Light is a story of a girl's search for identity and independence, complicated by the demands of family and financial struggle.

Mattie is faced with how to live her dreams without feeling as though she is betraying her family.
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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn book cover

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a timeless classic as well as one of the best coming of age stories of all time.

Set in the early 1900's, the story follows the hardships as well as the achievements of the Nolan family.
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Ada, Legend of a Healer book cover

Ada, Legend of a Healer

This Book is a poignant representation of American culture in the twenty-first century, a story of compassion and the unconquerable power of the human will.

Ada has spent her life shutting people out, but now, with the power to heal the stakes are much higher. What was once a life unnoticed, has turned into a life stalked by those who want to control her. Read More

Jane Eyre book cover

Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre is an incredible example of the strength of the human will but also the tenderness of the human spirit.

Jane is an orphan sentenced to the lower class of society because of her loss. She grows beyond society's judgment into a sensitive woman not afraid of life's challenges.
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Young Fu book cover

Young Fu

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze is a story of unbearable pressure and struggle but also of the adaptable nature of youth and the importance of sound character. Forced away from the quiet solitude of his family's farm, Young Fu is thrust into the fast, and sometimes cut-throat, pace of city life where he'll be faced with hard choices that will eventually define the man he'll become.
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Huck Finn book cover

Huck Finn

Huckleberry Finn tells the story of societal conditioning and the struggle of a young boy who's determined to do what feels right in his heart.

Huck is faced with a choice, to help a good friend or turn his back on a man that society has judged a slave.
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The Giver book cover

The Giver

Jonas lives in the perfect society, no crime, no financial woes, no suffering, but at what cost? His new job, which was chosen for him by officials, will open a vault of secrets that will certainly bring into focus what he's never questioned: what's the price of a "perfect" society? Read More

The Joy Luck Club book cover

The Joy Luck Club

A The Joy Luck Club is a mesmerizing story of mothers and daughters filling in the gaps of misunderstanding that built up over years of high hopes and unreasonable expectations.
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The Hobbit book cover

The Hobbit

A day well spent for a hobbit is good food, a cozy fire and a full pipe, all in the safe confines of home. Bilbo's comfortable existence is interrupted by a visit from a wizard who wants Bilbo to leave behind all he knows for a mysterious adventure.
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Catcher in the rye book cover

Catcher In The Rye

Everyone expects Holden Caulfield to know what he wants to do with his life, but at sixteen what Holden wants to do is the opposite of what everyone thinks he should. Heading home after being kicked out of school, Holden sets out on a downward spiral of bad choices. Will he find his way?
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the outsiders book cover

The Outsiders

Ponyboy and his gang, the Greasers, have spent their whole lives silently accepting their place at the bottom of society's ladder. But, will they be able to remain silent when a gang of rich kids, the Socs, threaten to beat up any "greaser" they come across?
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homeless bird book cover

Homeless Bird

Koly fears that if her husband, of a pre-arranged marriage, dies she will be unwanted and even worse cast out of society in India. She can't go back to her own family and her husband's family will only see her as a burden. Why should one person's value be based on another's?
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time of the doves book cover

Time of the Doves

In Spain during the civil war, a young girl named Natalia stumbles onto her path in life, learning that despair, loss, and sorrow are, at times, the painful ingredients in self discovery. But, along this dark and troubled road is where her true character begins to bloom.
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Swann's Way book cover

Swann's Way

Marcel Proust beautifully captures life through the eyes of a young boy growing up in French society during the late 19th century. The narrator describes his thoughts and feelings on the parental injustices and naive confusion of coming of age.
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The Red Tent book cover

The Red Tent

The Red Tent is the story of Dinah, a biblical figure from The Book of Genesis. Dinah is barely mentioned in the bible, but Anita Diamant masterfully weaves a story that brings her to life along with a richly detailed vision of what life was like for women during the biblical times.
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The Lord of the Flies book cover

The Lord Of The Flies

A powerfully written, but disturbing example of the wicked nature that lingers just under the surface of humanity. What would become of a group of boys stranded on an uninhabited island?
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Children of the Arbat book cover

Children of the Arbat

This book follows the lives of a circle of young friends coming of age in Russia during the reign of Stalin. Anatoli Rybakov masterfully describes the psychological destruction inflicted on a generation subjected to Stalin's oppressive governing through fear.
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Coming-of-Age Books

Home to a growing list of books with a coming-of-age theme.

 

Throughout our lives we are growing, learning and evolving, essentially coming of age. Books that represent these journeys not only capture stories for current and future generations but offer strength, hope and insight to readers, helping both women and men, young and old on their journeys of self-discovery.

 

 

Below is an ever growing list of some of the best Coming of Age books available.

 

 

Legend

 

 

Title:

Ada, Legend of a Healer

Author:

R.A. McDonald

Publisher:

House of Lore

Page Count:

260

ISBN #:

0615412580

Website:

Publication Date:

January 1, 2011


Description from back of book:

Ada Elisabeth Larue hasn't grown up in a house with a white picket fence. Instead, like many girls, she's seen the darker side of society first hand; forcing her to stand strong in the face of those who would keep her down. Growing up seeing the sickness of those around her and never getting hurt just seemed like facts of life. Finally on her last strike of trouble, an estranged aunt comes to the rescue giving Ada the knowledge of how to use her power.


Thoughts on the book:

Ada is a strong willed and determined Fifteen-year-old girl. She's passionate about her freedom of choice and refuses to be controlled by others. Unfortunately for her, she has a power that would end human suffering, which makes her an individual that many scrupulous and unscrupulous people would like to get their hands on. Teetering on the edge of wanting to abandon all hope for humanity but also beginning to realize the beauty and fragility of it, Ada decides, in her own way, how to handle her amazing power.


A question to think about while reading Ada, Legend of a Healer:
If you had the power to heal, do you feel it would be your duty to help as many people as you can? This question actually comes from the back of the book along with several other compelling questions. Ada can touch someone and their sickness is gone. Does having this power mean Ada has to help people no matter what she wants? And do people in high positions or society in general, have the right to force her to cure people's sickness, or worse, be a lab rat in order to understand and use her power?


Favorite quote:
            "'I figured if anyone came around to hurt you, an old fashioned beating would send them on their way. But this,' he sat down on his chair. 'This is different. Some might not want to give up.'"
                        --R.A. McDonald Ada, Legend of a Healer

 

Title:

Jane Eyre

Author:

Charlotte Bronte

Publisher:

Michael O'Mara; Elibron Classics series edition (August 1, 2011)

Page Count:

576

ISBN #:

1843175711

Website:

 

Publication Date:

1847

Description:

Jane Eyre is an orphan sentenced to the lower class of society because of her loss. Family members see her as a burden and quickly send her away to a boarding school that is known to be harsh and strict on the students. Despite the cruel conditioning of her childhood, Jane manages to grow to be a strong woman who knows her self-worth, but will she stand the test against the dark and mysterious happenings at Thornfield Hall?

 


Thoughts on the book:

Jane Eyre is an incredible example of the strength of the human will but also the tenderness of the human spirit.


One of the big issues Jane is faced with is how to deal with her position in society. She is the daughter of a poor curate and her mother, who was of noble blood, had been disowned because of her marriage, so according to Jane's aunt, her position in the household is less than a servant. Even though society seems to be set against Jane, she holds no grudges against people as a whole, and still she doesn't suffer or tolerate cruelty for long. She has open arms and deep appreciation for the kind people she comes across, but she will not sacrifice her self-worth for anyone or anything.


A question that kept coming to mind while reading Jane Eyre was: 

Is it right to judge and pass negative verdict on victims of crime or wrongdoing? Some examples for the previous question: In Jane Eyre her social status was less than a servant because her dead parents left her no money. In today's society some will feel less sympathy for a rape victim if they were dressed inappropriately. Can you think of instances where the victim is treated harsher than the offender?


Favorite quote:
           "Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones."
                        --Charlotte Brontë Jane Eyre

 

 

A Northern Light  Book Cover


Title:

A Northern Light

Author:

Jennifer Donnelly

Publisher:

Graphia

Page Count:

408

ISBN #:

0152053107

Website:

Publication Date:

2004

 

Description:

Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true. Desperate for money, she takes a job at the Glenmore, where hotel guest Grace Brown asks her to burn a bundle of secret letters. But when Grace's drowned body is fished from the lake, Mattie discovers the letters reveal the grim truth behind a murder.


Thoughts on the book:

One of the struggles Mattie is faced with is how to live her dreams without feeling as though she is betraying her family. Her mother's death put her in charge of the household, and with that there is a lifetime of work, little time for anything else. On her mother's death bed she begged Mattie to always take care of her sisters and father. Mattie is torn between loyalty and longing. Her father doesn't help matters because he believes his children should stay and work the family's land. After a fierce battle with the father, the oldest brother, angry and tired, walks out on the family without looking back. Mattie resents this abandonment, but family pressure and demand can be a heavy burden to bear.


A question that kept coming to mind was:

Should a family member give up individual dreams to hold a family together?


Favorite quote:
            "A hawk's work, I thought, wondering if the robin had seen the brilliant blue of the sky and felt the sun on its back before its wings were broken."
                        --Jennifer Donnelly A Northern light

 

 

Time Of The Doves Book Cover


Title:

Time of the doves

Author:

Mercè Rodoreda

Publisher:

Graywolf Press

Page Count:

208

ISBN #:

0915308754

Website:

 

Publication Date:

October 1, 1986


Description:

Time of the Doves follows the life of Natalia during the Spanish Civil War. In the beginning, like most youth, Natalia struggles with finding her identity, but without a mother to confide in and the distance between her and her father, she easily rushes into troubled situations. Mercè Rodoreda masterfully describes the naive and turbulent road of youth that grows into a life well lived.


Thoughts on the book:

The void left behind by the death of her mother leaves Natalia with many questions that only a mother would answer. Natalia's choice to marry Quimet is rushed and built on shaky foundation. All the major life events seem dumped in her lap and she struggles to understand and balance them. The amazing part of this book is how Rodoreda captures the beauty and flow of coming of age in a society slipping into civil war.


A question that came to mind while reading The Time of the Doves:

Does marriage really need to be the purpose and goal of humanity, like it is always made out to be, or is it better to create other goals and if marriage happens along the way, well then it is an added benefit?

 


Favorite quote:

"The sun stayed hidden for a long time and everything got darker and darker and it started to rain."
                Mercè Rodoreda The Time of the Doves

 

 

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Book Cover


Title:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Author:

Betty Smith

Publisher:

Harper Perennial Modern Classics (May 30, 2006)

Page Count:

528

ISBN #:

9780061120077

Website:

 

Publication Date:

1943


Description:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a timeless classic as well as one of the best coming-of-age stories of all time. Set in the early 20th century, the book follows the Nolan family's struggles and accomplishments. They are a family that has learned to do without, but still manage to hold strong to their values and dignity. The characters' strengths and weaknesses along with the good and bad choices they make in every day circumstances make them real and unforgettable. The events that unravel in their lives are described with clarity and wisdom, making the reader feel as though they are part of the struggle.


Thoughts on the book:

In A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Francie and her family struggle with extreme poverty but what seems to be the bigger and more painful struggle is trying to hold onto their dignity when all odds seem stacked against them. At one point, after the death of her husband, a pregnant Katie Nolan is faced with the realization that despite her family's ability to go without there still might not be enough money for food. She discusses the options with her sisters, who are also struggling to make ends meet; when one suggests that she should accept a charity basket, Katie's answer is a serious one, "...I'll plug up the doors and windows and wait until the children are sound asleep and then turn on every gas jet in the house."


A question that kept coming to my mind is:

In the face of the worst hardships, is maintaining dignity what separates us from the animals and defines what it means to have a strong character or does the fight for survival justify forsaking such characteristics?

 

Favorite quote:
            "That means there must be something bigger than money...It was education that made the difference! Education would pull them out of the grime and dirt."
            --Betty Smith A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

 

 

 

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze Book Cover


Title:

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze

Author:

Elizabeth Foreman Lewis

Publisher:

Square Fish (April 29, 2008)

Page Count:

320

ISBN #:

0312380070

Website:

 

Publication Date:

1933


Description:

Young Fu, a thirteen-year-old farm boy, has just arrived in the big city with his mother. The untimely death of his father forces him to grow up quickly and take over responsibilities as head of household. Young Fu finds out quickly the cruel and unforgiving nature of big city life as he strives to make a place for himself. The difficult experiences he endures, and the strong friendships he builds along the way, make this a great coming of age story.


Thoughts on the book:

With the unjust death of his father by corrupt soldiers Young Fu has to grow up quickly in order to step into his father's shoes. In the lower classes of any society, people struggle to grind out an existence. Young Fu rises to the occasion despite the cruelty and corruption he sees going on around him as well as what he has to endure himself. He carefully picks wise and kind people to befriend and learn from. The teen years are filled with struggle and searching for independence in every class of every society, but when poverty is added to the mix the pressures can become too heavy to bear. This story tells of unbearable pressure and struggle but also of incredible strength of will and sound character.


A question that came to mind while reading Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze was:

If citizens don't rise up against corrupt leaders, are citizens just as much to blame for their own subjugation?


Favorite quote:
            "No man can rule the unruly until he first rules himself."
                        --Elizabeth Foreman Lewis Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze

 

 

 

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Coming of Age Books