Coming of Age
The coming of age theme is an extremely popular focus for many fiction books. In a coming of age novel, the main character often undergoes some struggle or comes to grips with the harsh realities of life and growing up. Book clubs have always embraced these books, from the classics - A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and The Catcher in the Rye, to the more contemporary The Kite Runner and The Secret Life of Bees. If you’re looking for your next book club pick, here are a few new authors who’ve written some noteworthy books in the coming of age genre.
Told through the eyes of a fourteen year old narrator, In Zanesville by Jo Ann Beard is set in a Midwestern town in the 1970’s. It’s a story of friendship, family, life in a small town, and what it means to be a young girl in her tumultuous adolescent years. There are lots of situations women will identify with and characters that will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading this novel. This is a perfect book for a good discussion.
Justin Torres’s debut novel, We the Animals, is another coming of age story with a somewhat different setting. It is the story of three young brothers, children of a mixed-race working class couple, living in upstate New York. A strong statement about the bonds of brothers, it is both funny and heartbreaking. Loosely based on Torres’s own childhood, this is a beautifully written, powerful book.
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach is also a debut novel, and although a little longer than I would normally recommend for a book discussion (512 pages!), I think you will enjoy it. The story of a college baseball player who dreams of playing professionally, it is filled with memorable characters whose lives collide and intersect throughout the novel. It is about baseball, but there’s much more to it than that. It’s a coming of age novel about family and friendship, love and loyalty, and finding yourself. Mr. Harbach has written a literary novel that book clubs will enjoy reading.
The coming of age novel is a classic genre, but it’s always interesting to see how different authors present it.