Top Five Saturday: Coming of Age Stories

The Top 5 series is back! Top Five Saturday is a meme hosted by Devouring Books to discover and share books that all have a common theme. Previously on the blog I have focused on witches, werewolves, thrillers, faeries, fairy tale re-tellings, high fantasy and many more. I am going to try and bring this series back for every Saturday.


30th May 2020: Books from a Male Point of View

6th June 2020: Books Set on the Sea

13th June 2020: Books with One Word (Eponymous) Titles

20th June 2020: Books I’d Give a Second Chance To

27th June 2020: Morally Grey Characters

Oh the irony, to miss the Coming of Age topic because of my daughter’s birthday! And somehow a five o’clock start to the day did not generate any additional time during the day! So, after swimming and playing and lego building and caking…. I collapsed onto the sofa last night!

And I do love a coming-of-age story! Aren’t most fairy tales essentially coming-of-age tales in which children strive for independence from parents?

Anyway, in the interests of a quick catch up, five fantastic coming of age stories where characters find their adult form and voice and independence. And here I will eschew the Bildungsroman genre: these novels open with a child protagonist and close with a young adult one – often an adult who has come to accept his or her differences from others around him.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky

Charlie is a freshman. And while he’s not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But Charlie can’t stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a gorgeous and tender book, peeling away the layers of Charlie’s psyche to a hidden trauma underneath,

Black Swan Green, David Mitchell

January, 1982. Thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor – covert stammerer and reluctant poet – anticipates a stultifying year in his backwater English village. But he hasn’t reckoned with bullies, simmering family discord, the Falklands War, a threatened gypsy invasion and those mysterious entities known as girls. Charting thirteen months in the black hole between childhood and adolescence, this is a captivating novel, wry, painful and vibrant with the stuff of life.

This is possibly my favourite and quietest and most grounded of Mitchell’s novels: there is much that touches on my own childhood – I remember 1982 as a nine-year old, remember the stultifying English village life, know Lyme Regis well which crops up in the novel. It was a little jarring to read The Bone Clocks and find the cousin here taking a rather different role!

The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly

‘Once upon a time, there was a boy who lost his mother . . .’ As twelve-year-old David takes refuge from his grief in the myths and fairytales so beloved of his dead mother, he finds the real world and the fantasy world begin to blend. That is when bad things start to happen. That is when the Crooked Man comes. And David is violently propelled into a land populated by heroes, wolves and monsters in his quest to find the legendary Book of Lost Things.

I really must re-read this: I remember loving it but not much else about it… And this is the second time I have mentioned it in one of these lists…

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson

This is the story of Jeanette, adopted and brought up by her mother as one of God’s elect. Zealous and passionate, she seems destined for life as a missionary, but then she falls for one of her converts.

At sixteen, Jeanette decides to leave the church, her home and her family, for the young woman she loves. Innovative, punchy and tender, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a few days ride into the bizarre outposts of religious excess and human obsession.

Another novel I feel I need to re-read. But a classic coming of age novel, and seminal in the representation of same-gender relationships.

Cuckoo Song, Frances Hardinge

When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows that something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry; her sister seems scared of her and her parents whisper behind closed doors. She looks through her diary to try to remember, but the pages have been ripped out.

Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined, and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest to find the truth she must travel into the terrifying Underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family – before it’s too late . . .

Yes, even sentient puppets can come of age! I couldn’t not include a Hardinge on the list – and am struggling not to throw in a Patrick Ness too – and as so often it comes to a choice between this and The Lie Tree. But the non-human – the inhuman? – nature of Triss really throws into stark relief all those issues of coming of age.

So there we have it a quick run down of five wonderful coming of age novels amongst so many. The CILIP Carnegie Medal for obvious reasons (it being a YA award) has a hgue number of wonderful examples amongst its short listed and long listed novels which would be worth checking out too.

Forthcoming Top Five Topics

11th July 2020: Hyped Books

18th July 2020: Books you Own

25th July 2020: #OwnVoices Books

Again, a David Mitchell book is an event, and a thing of beauty! But the music industry is not my natural setting and again I was caught between this and another book – Daisy Jones and the Six in this case – and Daisy Jones was read first. This time, because it was nominated on a book club I was part of.

Bonus: The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch

They say that the Thorn of Camorr can beat anyone in a fight. They say he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. They say he’s part man, part myth, and mostly street-corner rumor. And they are wrong on every count.

Only averagely tall, slender, and god-awful with a sword, Locke Lamora is the fabled Thorn, and the greatest weapons at his disposal are his wit and cunning. He steals from the rich – they’re the only ones worth stealing from – but the poor can go steal for themselves. What Locke cons, wheedles and tricks into his possession is strictly for him and his band of fellow con-artists and thieves: the Gentleman Bastards.

This one has been on my TBR for years. Literally years. I have heard nothing but praise for it, but so far have never quite got around to reading it! Go figure!

So, there we go: a range of books that I got in 2020 – save for the Scott Lynch – and do regret not reading during the year. Is regret the right word? Probably not to be honest: I do not regret the reading that I did do last year at all. But these are books that I would like to find time to catch up with this year – before prize season hits us again!

Pop in the comments below your thoughts on these – maybe let me know which I should read first!

5 thoughts on “Top Five Saturday: Coming of Age Stories”

  1. Brilliant review!! I read the perks of being a wallflower a while back, and I watched the film really recently. Normally, I’d say the book is better than the movie, but I lurrrveddd the film so much!! I really liked how they’d adapted the story (and who can argue with Emma Watson haha). Here was my review of the film vs the book: 🙂


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