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10 Life-Changing Coming-of-Age Stories

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Coming-of-age books hold a special place on my bookshelf. My father once told me that if I learn one good thing from a book, then it was absolutely worth reading. I find that these books, often referred to as bildungsroman, have taught me a number of things while still counting among my most enjoyable reads. Fiction allows us to have new experiences, especially when we are growing and learning about the world. These books have both articulated thoughts I considered uniquely mine and showed me something new and intriguing about the world. Remember, it’s dangerous to go alone out there, so take one of these with you! Here are my ten favorite books for young people. Buy one for yourself, your friends, or your children. Click on the links to order them through Interabang.

7th Sigma Cover Image
ISBN: 9780765375001
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Tor Books - June 26th, 2012

As an admirer of Rudyard Kipling’s poetry and writing, I would be remiss if I failed to note that Stephen Gould’s 7TH SIGMA is largely a near-futuristic telling of Kipling’s KIM, which the author acknowledges openly. With a staunch dedication to his world building. Gould describes the insect-like machines that have populated the deserts of the Southwest (looking at you, Arizona/New Mexico) and consume metal to duplicate themselves. Caught between self-replicating swarms and outlaws of the region, one boy must decide what kind of man he will grow into. Filled with martial arts and adventures, this book is a lot of fun.

Little Brother Cover Image
ISBN: 9780765323118
Availability: NOT IN STOCK - Usually arrives in 3 - 7 business days
Published: Tor Teen - April 13th, 2010

When a terrorist attack in San Francisco lands him in hot water, Cory Doctrow’s protagonist must think on his feet to stay one step ahead of the government. A valuable anti-authoritarian novel which explains several viable techniques for circumventing digital surveillance which we would do well to remember. With its emphasis on the downsides of living in a surveillance state, this book remains timely today.

Ready Player One: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307887443
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Ballantine Books - June 5th, 2012

You may have seen the movie trailer for this one. I assure you, the book beats the movie, hands down! Wade Watts lives in a dystopian future in Ohio, where he escapes life through a virtual reality world developed by an eccentric gentleman who leaves behind a complex series of puzzles based on 80’s gaming and movie trivia. When Wade deciphers the first puzzle, the hunt is on. The future of OASIS and Wade Watts lay in the balance. A wonderful story of duty and decision in an immersive and well-built universe.

Artemis: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780553448122
Availability: NOT IN STOCK - Usually arrives in 3 - 7 business days
Published: Crown - November 14th, 2017

Andy Weir, author of THE MARTIAN, does a great job developing the first lunar city around his protagonist, small time smuggler and attempted saboteur Jasmine “Jazz” Bashara. Science heavy and full of adventure, I find this one to just be a great story. I recently had the chance to interview Andy Weir (you can listen to my interview here:) and he is even smarter and wittier than I thought! Sharp as a tack and twice as fast, Jazz leaps from one misadventure to another, steps ahead of a cartel assassin and the police. If you haven’t tried science fiction yet, give this one a try!

First Test: Book 1 of the Protector of the Small Quartet Cover Image
ISBN: 9780375829055
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Ember - August 24th, 2004

One of the reasons I love Tamora Pierce’s writing is her emphasis on strong female protagonists, as passionate about beating bullies as they are about making their own way in the world. With Tamora’s newest book (TEMPEST AND SLAUGHTER) just in, I thought it was high time that I reread one of her series. First Test is the seminal book in her Protector of the Small series, focused on Kel, a young woman attempting to become the first openly female knight in Tortall. A great animal lover and visceral opposed to bullies, Kel is alternately compassionate and brave in equal measure. A good book for young men and women, this has my wholehearted recommendation behind it.

The Schwa was Here Cover Image
ISBN: 9780142405772
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Puffin Books - March 2nd, 2006

We all know that the people on the fringes of society, in high school or the real world, can feel like their invisible. But what if one of them actually is? Neal Shusterman explores how being invisible affects those who suffer from it. The protagonist befriends a young man he calls the “schwa” due to his invisibility trick. Neal manages to explore all the emotions that a young man on the verge of adulthood would feel, while showing that compassion and kindness for others is never wasted. Tongue-in-cheek and without check, this book is perfect for middle schoolers who just need a context.

The Bear and the Nightingale: A Novel (Winternight Trilogy #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101885956
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Del Rey - June 27th, 2017

One of the most fun authors I’ve met so far, Kathrine Arden writes in a unique vein. With the release of her second book in the Winternight Trilogy, I was prompted to try out her first, and it did not disappoint! Based on Russian folktales of the household spirits, THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE is a fabulous story of our interactions with the spiritual, and how our choices make us who we are.

Tales of the Madman Underground Cover Image
ISBN: 9780142417027
Availability: NOT IN STOCK - Usually arrives in 3 - 7 business days
Published: Speak - January 6th, 2011

John Barnes manages to deal with a great number of difficult subjects with great aplomb. Get this for the high schooler in your life, because it does a wonderful job of describing the difficulties of surviving high school intact. Karl Shoemaker has an alcoholic mom, a dead father, a gay best friend and a friend circle of the crazies. With ironic self awareness, they call themselves the Madmen Underground. Set in the 70s, this book continues to be relatable today. Many of the things that Karl Shoemaker says stuck with me for quite a while. One of my absolute favorite books.

The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780756405892
Availability: NOT IN STOCK - Usually arrives in 3 - 7 business days
Published: DAW - April 7th, 2009

Lyrical and haunting, Patrick Rothfuss tells the tale of Kvothe the Deathless, starting with the time he survived the slaughter of his family and theater troupe. Rothfuss writes beautifully, savoring each word before delicately allowing it to float away with the wind. Truly great epic fantasy, THE NAME OF THE WIND shows how difficult and rewarding life can truly be.

The Warded Man: Book One of The Demon Cycle Cover Image
ISBN: 9780345518705
Availability: NOT IN STOCK - Usually arrives in 3 - 7 business days
Published: Del Rey - March 23rd, 2010

In a world struck each night by tragedy, three young people will raise their arms against the demons that haunt the night. The first in a series of 5 books, Peter V. Brett explores how fear transforms us, and how individuals can reach beyond their fear to act with great impact. Follow Arleen, Leesha and Rojer as they seek the knowledge that will defeat the corelings and restore the balance of power in the world.