Our favourite coming-of-age stories

31 May 2017

'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.

Inspired by Alice Adams' Invincible Summer coming-of-age novel of recent times, we've put together a list of what we consider to be the very best books about growing up. 

All the Pretty Horses

All the Pretty Horses

Cormac McCarthy

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. 

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A Boy's Own Story

A Boy's Own Story

Edmund White

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. 

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Less Than Zero

Less Than Zero

Bret Easton Ellis

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. 

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to kill a mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee

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.

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Great Expectations

Great Expectations

Charles Dickens

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. 

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain

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. 

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catcher in the rye

The Catcher in the Rye

J.D Salinger

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.

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i know why the caged bird sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou

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.

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growing pains of adrian mole

The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole

Sue Townsend

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.

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Shotgun Lovesongs

Shotgun Lovesongs

Nickolas Butler

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. 
 

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Forever

Forever

Judy Blume

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.

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The End of Everything

The End of Everything

Megan Abbott

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. 

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Marlena

Marlena

Julie Buntin

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. 

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Invincible Summer

Invincible Summer

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

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