Our favourite coming-of-age stories

Discover our edit of the very best books about growing up.

15/06/2020
2 minutes to read

'When a child first catches adults out - when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not always have divine intelligence, that their judgments are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just - his world falls into panic desolation. The gods are fallen and all safety gone.' John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Writers and readers repeatedly return to the subject of growing up. The confusing, difficult, and exciting journey from child to adult is one that provides authors with endless material. We've put together a list of what we consider to be the very best coming-of-age books and novels about growing up.

Discover our edit of the best literary fiction. 

The Young Team

by Graeme Armstrong

Book cover for 9781529017328
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In the forgotten heartlands of Scotland, your mates, your young team, they're everything you've got. At fourteen Azzy Williams is a rising star. At seventeen he's out of control. And by twenty-one, he'd like to leave it all behind. But finding a way out isn't easy.

The Young Team is an energetic novel, full of the loyalty, laughs and violence of life on the streets. This powerful story about the realities of life for young people in Britain today is inspired by the author's own experiences of teenage life.

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All the Pretty Horses

by Cormac McCarthy

Book cover for 9780330510936

McCarthy’s Border Trilogy begins with the story of 16-year-old John Grady Cole, the last bewildered survivor of long generations of Texas ranchers. Finding himself cut off from the only life he has ever wanted, he sets out for Mexico with his friend Lacey Rawlins.

Befriending a third boy on the way, they find a country beyond their imagining: barren and beautiful, rugged yet cruelly civilized; a place where dreams are paid for in blood.

Available now in Paperback and Ebook. 

A Boy's Own Story

by Edmund White

Book cover for 9781509813865

The story of a young boy growing up in the fifties in an American town. Beset by aloof parents, a cruel sister, and relentless mocking from his peers, our unnamed narrator struggles with his sexuality, seeking consolation in art and literature, and in his own fantastic imagination.

Available now in Paperback and Ebook formats. 


Less Than Zero

Book cover for 9780330539326

Years before American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis shocked, stunned and disturbed with his debut, a fierce coming-of-age novel about the casual nihilism that comes with youth and money.

Available in Paperback and Ebook formats. 

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s.

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

Book cover for 9781509825363

Possibly the most well-known bildungsroman ever written, the story of Pip’s journey from his humble origins to an unexpected life of wealth and privilege and the painful and humbling lessons he learns along the way, remains one of Dickens’ most popular novels.

Out now in Hardback, as part of the Macmillan Collector's Library, as well as in Ebook format. 


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

Book cover for 9781509827992

The classic American coming-of-age novel, in which, teenage misfit, Huckleberry Finn and Jim, an escaped slave, set off to find freedom on the Mississippi. They encounter trouble at every turn, from floods and gunfights to armed bandits and the long arm of the law. Through it all the friends stick together - but can Huck and Tom free Jim from slavery once and for all?


Available now in Hardback as part of the Macmillan Collector's Library, as well as in Ebook format. 


The Catcher in the Rye

by J. D. Salinger

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The ultimate novel of disaffected youth, Salinger’s seventeen-year-old dropout Holden Caulfield is the definitive voice of teenage angst and alienation. Written with the clarity of a boy leaving childhood, it deals with society, love, loss, and expectations without ever falling into the clutch of a cliché and feels as relevant today as in the 1950s.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

by Maya Angelou

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In the first volume of her six books of autobiography, Maya Angelou beautifully evokes her childhood with her grandmother in the American south of the 1930s. She learns the power of the white folks at the other end of town and suffers the terrible trauma of rape by her mother's lover. Despite her enduring love for the world, she realises its cruelty.

The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole

by Sue Townsend

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The second volume of Adrian Mole’s secret diary perfectly captures the frustration of being young and misunderstood. Now approaching the mid-point of his teenager years, Adrian is still no closer to understanding life, women, school, and, crucially himself but continues to struggle valiantly against the slings and arrows of growing up. This coming-of-age book will have you laughing out loud.

Shotgun Lovesongs

by Nickolas Butler

Book cover for 9781509801756

A big-hearted story of small-town life that questions whether you can ever truly come home. Henry, Lee, Kip and Ronny grew up together in rural Wisconsin. Friends since childhood, their lives all began the same way, but have since taken different paths. Now all four are back in town for a wedding, each of them hoping to recapture their old closeness but unable to escape how much has changed.

Available now in Paperback, Ebook and as an Audio Book. 

Forever

by Judy Blume

Book cover for 9781447281047

Still the most honest account of first love, first sex and first heartbreak ever written for teens. It was a book ahead of its time - and remains, after forty years in print, one of the best, most painfully relatable female coming-of-age novels ever written.

Available now in Paperback and Ebook formats.

The End of Everything

by Megan Abbott

Book cover for 9781447283706

A dark, intelligent thriller about adolescent desire and adult complicity.

A close-knit street, the clink of glass on glass, summer heat. Two girls on the brink of adolescence, throwing cartwheels on the grass. Two girls who tell each other everything. Until one shimmering afternoon, one of them disappears.

Available now in Paperback and Ebook formats. 

Marlena

Book cover for 9781509844128

After having her world turned upside down by her parent's divorce and her subsequent move to a lonely town in rural Michigan, fifteen-year-old Cat is lonely and bored - until she meets beautiful, manic Marlena.


Julie Buntin's debut novel is a vivid portrayal of the intoxicating nature of teenage friendship and the dangers it leads to.  


Available now in Hardback and as an Ebook. 

Invincible Summer

by Alice Adams

Book cover for 9781509814725

Invincible Summer, Alice Adams’ novel about love, friendship and the highs and lows of adulthood is out in paperback, and as an Ebook, now.