Coming of Age: Fiction

Updated: June 23, 2024

These are stories of children, young adults, sometimes late-bloomers who achieve maturity by overcoming difficult

Book cover for The Adrian Mole diaries
The Adrian Mole diaries
Townsend, Sue.

British teenager, Adrian Mole, reveals all his yearnings and inadequacies in a diary.

Book cover for As God commands
As God commands
Ammaniti, Niccolo`, 1966-
Charles Dickens meets Sapphire meets rough times for a young person in this modern day tale of a teenager's life in Varano, Italy. Cristiano's neo-Nazi dad and several pals decide to launch the perfect robbery by running some type of vehicle into an ATM machine. Most everything goes disastrously wrong, including the life of Cristiano, the young protagonist. This is a gritty compelling story of a young person caught in a life without options. The book was awarded Italy's Strega Prize.

Book cover for Atonement: A Novel
Atonement: A Novel
McEwan, Ian.

In pre-War Britain, 13-year-old Briony witnesses a flirtatious moment between her older sister and a neighbor boy. Her misunderstanding of the situation brings about a crime that will change all their lives. The book follows that crime’s repercussions, and its effect on the lives of the main characters, through WW II and into the close of the twentieth century.

Book cover for Bonjour Tristesse
Bonjour Tristesse
Sagan, Francoise, 1935-2004.
Call Number: Ed.b

This French coming-of-age story written in the 1950s was considered scandalous when it came out. With the author barely older than her teenage protagonist, the story ably explores emotional matters and life-changing experiences. Translated from French.

Book cover for Brutal youth
Brutal youth
Breznican, Anthony.
An unflinching look at the horror that can be high school and the attempts of three students to survive their freshman year. Breznican’s debut novel is harrowing, gripping and insightful.

Book cover for Call Me By Your Name
Call Me By Your Name
Aciman, Andre,
Call Number: Ed.a

A coming-of-age story about an adolescent boy coming to terms with his sexuality. A six-week encounter, at the family's villa on the Italian Riviera, changes the lives of the adolescent and an adult guest.

Book cover for The cat who saved books : a novel
The Cat Who Saved Books: A Novel
Natsukawa, Sōsuke, 1978-

A perceptive talking cat enlists the help of an aimless high school student in order to help save books that " ... have been imprisoned." A coming-of-age adventure that is also an homage to all kinds of books and to the joy of reading.

Book cover for Empire of the Sun : a novel
Empire of the Sun : a novel
Ballard, J. G., 1930-2009.

Eleven-year-old Jim is torn from the comfort of his upper-class British family when Japan attacks allied warships in Shanghai on December 7, 1941. He is left to scavenge in a city left in ruins until being picked up and thrown into an internment camp with adults.

Book cover for Franny and Zooey
Franny and Zooey
Salinger, J. D. 1919-2010.
Call Number: Ed.a
J. D. Salinger published most of his short stories in The New Yorker, from "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" in 1948 to his last published work, "Hapworth 16, 1924," which appeared in the June 19, 1965 issue. Franny and Zooey consists of two short stories published separately in the magazine, with each story about one of the members of Salinger's fictional Glass family.

Book cover for Green wheat : a novel
Green wheat : a novel
Colette, 1873-1954.

French writer Colette tenderly explores adolescent love between two childhood friends, Phil and Vinca. This new translation captures Colette's sensuous writing style.

Book cover for A high wind in Jamaica
A high wind in Jamaica
Hughes, Richard Arthur Warren, 1900-1976.
Call Number: Ed.a

In nineteenth century Jamaica, a shipload of British children are being sent home to school when their ship is highjacked by pirates. What happens is unexpected and belies the innocence of childhood.

Book cover for The Kite Runner
The Kite Runner
Hosseini, Khaled.

A tale of a tumultuous father-son relationship in present-day Afghanistan and the United States which reveals two family secrets.

Book cover for The loneliness of the long-distance runner
The loneliness of the long-distance runner
Sillitoe, Alan.
Call Number: Ed.c
A defiant teenage boy in a British reformatory school has a talent for long-distance running which gives hope to the school's director for a great victory. However this working-class lad has his own plans for another kind of prize.

Book cover for Lord of the flies : a novel
Lord of the flies : a novel
Golding, William, 1911-1993.
Call Number: Ed.c
This modern classic tackles the problem of bullying as a group of English schoolboys try to survive being stranded on an island.

Book cover for The member of the wedding
The member of the wedding
McCullers, Carson, 1917-1967.
Call Number: Ed.a

12-year-old Frankie Addams feels alienated and lost, and as she struggles with her own identity assumes the name of F. Jasmine. Set in a small southern town, in the 1940s, Frankie's only close relationships are with her 6-year-old cousin, John Henry, and her family's African-American housekeeper, Berenice.

Book cover for My brilliant career
My brilliant career
Franklin, Miles, 1879-1954.
Call Number: Ed.b

Miles Franklin's autobiographical novel is about her life as a young girl, growing up in the wilds of Australia's outback, all the while yearning for a life of art, music and literature.

Other people's houses.
Segal, Lore Groszmann.

Lore Segal’s semi-autobiographical novel is about her life as a refugee Jewish child evacuated from Austria during World War II to the relative safety of England. It is a poignant and candid reflection about a child’s displacement, and how it feels to be thrust into new surroundings, without the immediate comfort and solace of one’s own family.

The river.
Godden, Rumer, 1907-1998.

The story is set in Bengal, India, during the 1940s, where Harriet's English family lives. She is a dreamy adolescent girl who loves to write and is highly susceptible to feelings of romantic love, while the immediate world grounds her reality.  There is also the beautiful Jean Renoir movie. The novel is available on e-Media.

Book cover for Tell the wolves I'm home : a novel
Tell the wolves I'm home : a novel
Brunt, Carol Rifka
Call Number: F

After her beloved uncle dies of AIDS-related complications, fourteen-year-old June Elbus strikes up a secret friendship with his boyfriend in this heartbreaking coming of age story, set during the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

The third man, and, The fallen idol.
Greene, Graham, 1904-1991.
Call Number: M Ed.a

This is a spectacular twofer:  one novel and a short story by Graham Greene, which became two films directed by Carol Reed.  The fallen idol has been overshadowed by the more famous Third man.

Book cover for A tree grows in Brooklyn
A tree grows in Brooklyn
Smith, Betty, 1896-1972.
Call Number: Ed.g
The wonderful tale of Francie Nolan, a bookish little girl who was born in 1900 and grew up with the century in a poor Brooklyn tenement. Sensitive portrayals of her hard-working mother, alcoholic father and colorful aunts are offset by budding writer Francie's own deft observations of her surroundings and the way both she and they change over time. A nostalgic yet clear-eyed snapshot of America in the early twentieth century. Highly recommended.

Book cover for Warlight
Ondaatje, Michael

Nathaniel Williams reminisces about his life as a young boy during World War II, when he and his sister were left in the care of a mysterious stranger. Has time blurred his memory, or was there something more to the neighbor and his relationship to the young boy's parents?