First and foremost: What is a Coming-of-Age Story?
Coming of Age is a genre in books or films based on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from one age to another. This theme revolves around personal growth and change and is often time shown through a ‘Hero’s Quest’ (see the diagram below). Coming of Age is important because it relays the feeling of growing and maturing from one part of your life to the next which is something many, if not all, audiences can relate to.
Four Coming-of-Age Books to Read
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Through gaining memories and learning maturity the coming-of-age story, The Giver introduces a young boy named Jonas. In his story, he learns what the world around him is really about while living in a futuristic society. This is a classic Coming-of-Age story because Jonas is enlightened to his reality, and the reader is taken through what he does about it. His life is turned around when he starts to spend time with a mysterious character called The Giver.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
A story that follows the life of Okonkwo, leader of a community, through his banishment, exile, and return to his once forgotten life. This coming-of-age story shows the struggle between change and tradition. Although it is not a change one may hope to see, readers are still given the theme of the hero’s quest and a difference between the development character throughout the book.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
This amazing story follows a neurodivergent boy, Christopher, who starts investigating the death of his neighbor’s dog. Throughout this investigation, he uncovers secrets and uncomfortable truths about his family and their past. He is left facing things he isn’t used to and uses the experience as a way to grow as he realizes not everyone around him is perfect. Christopher shows maturity in becoming independent and self-sufficient. It is a great read.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This story follows one of the most crucial societal dialogues in America. This is a bold story that shows the double life of the protagonist, Starr, and the two different worlds she lives in. Starr witnesses police brutality and start to question everything about her life and how something like this could happen. She learns about different aspects of her life and starts feeling the pressure of all sides. The Coming-of-Age theme is shown through the choices Starr has to make and what she has to overcome. This powerful book is one that no one should skip.
An honorable mention: Lilo and Stitch
Yes! This amazing movie (and turned book) is a Coming-of-Age story! Lilo, the protagonist, matures and realizes what she has around her throughout the story. She sees that in the end, the family will get her through things only by giving them a chance. By going through her journey with Stitch and fighting to make him a ‘normal’ dog and fighting to get him back, she goes through her own hero’s quest.
Stories have hidden meanings and in ways have themes that stick out like a sore thumb. The Coming-of-Age genre is a great way to show readers a change the protagonists go through in their lives. The books listed above are a great way to learn a coming-of-age theme can be present in different ways. From The Giver to Lilo and Stitch, each story is different but follows the same route of a hero’s journey. This theme is important as young readers may face the same situation in their lives and to read about it happen to a character is something to learn from. To see changes in characters check out the books mentioned! Happy reading!
Coming of Age