Coming of Age: 10 Books Every Young Adult Should Read

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Growing up from childhood into the teenager years can be a little scary. Boys and girls start to learn new things, get new attitudes and grow into new bodies over several years. Every kid that goes through this time of their lives faces the future with a little trepidation. Luckily for today’s teens and tweens, there are plenty of good books on the subject of coming-of-age.

10. “ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET” BY JUDY BLUME
Margaret is a sixth grader who dreams of going to the dance with cuter-than-cute Leroy, but her life isn’t quite that simple. She deals with normal sixth-grade issues, such as body image, popularity, best friends and hormones. However, Margaret’s grandmothers try to convince her to commit to one religion or the other because Margaret was born into a house with one Christian parent and one Jewish parent. The family hijinks at home only add to the girl’s consternation, so she prays to God to try to get through her challenges.

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9. “FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON” BY DANIEL KEYES
Anyone who faces bullying from peers should read “Flowers for Algernon.” Charlie Gordon has lower-than-normal intelligence until an experimental medical procedure elevates his cognitive abilities to genius level. Charlie discovers, thanks to his new-found intelligence, that many of his so-called friends actually laughed at him behind his back. Charlie also realizes he was abused as a child. Charlie runs away from his social awkwardness and shame by adopting Algernon, the mouse who underwent the same surgical procedure as the young man, and living alone.2

8. ALL SEVEN “HARRY POTTER” NOVELS
Kids can watch the young wizard, Harry Potter, grow seven years over the span of seven novels thanks to his adventures at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. These uber-popular books chronicle how Harry becomes a wizard, learns lessons the hard way, and confronts his mystical past throughout the series.3

7. “SECRETS OF THE SHOPPING MALL” BY RICHARD PECK
“Secrets of the Shopping Mall” follows the adventures of two eighth graders, Teresa and Barney, who escape from a rough inner city gang on a city bus. When their bus fare runs out, the pair winds up at the local shopping mall. Instead of going back to school the next day, Teresa and Barney choose to spend the night at the mall and live on their own. Too bad their idea isn’t an original one.4

6. THE “HARDY BOYS” AND “NANCY DREW”
The “Hardy Boys” and “Nancy Drew” book series have been entertaining kids since the 1930s. Kid detectives solving mysteries have been a big part of children’s lit. in the 20th century. These books are about all that children can accomplish in a world full of adults.

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5. “THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER” BY STEVEN CHBOSKY
Charlie tries to fit into high school as a freshman, but he feels as if he’s more mature than the people around him. Readers get to see Charlie deal with his emotions in a series of letters throughout the book that delve into his struggles with depression and his best friend’s suicide. Many kids can relate to Charlie’s raw emotions as he bares his soul and asks the tough questions.6

4. “THE OUTSIDERS” BY S.E. HINTON
“The Outsiders” follows a gang of boys in the 1960s, yet the setting could be just about anywhere and any time in America. Once readers get past the slang, the novel offers an inside look at the subculture of teens who feel left out and seek a place where they feel they belong.

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3. “JASPER JONES” BY CRAIG SILVEY
Jasper Jones is the town outsider who murders Laura Wishart, the older sister of Charlie Bucktin’s teenage crush, Eliza. Charlie helps Jasper hide the body, but then Charlie, a loner himself, swears to Jasper that he won’t tell the authorities. By the end of the novel, family secrets come to light and secrets get shared.

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2. “GONE, GONE GONE” BY HANNAH MOSKOWITZ
Craig and Cody are two normal 15-year-olds in love with each other. As the two grapple with their romance, the couple deals with breaking up, getting back together and the emotional aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks followed by the D.C. sniper attacks a year later. This emotionally complicated book shows how the hurt of the nation mirrors that of the two main characters.9

1. “MONSTER” BY WALTER DEAN MYERS
Steve Harmon, age 16, faces 25 years to life in prison for acting as a lookout during a robbery that turns into a murder. The prosecution calls him a “monster,” but readers get the full story of Harmon’s complicated life growing up in Harlem through a series of journal entries he keeps while in prison awaiting trial.

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