Feature Image Credit: @jemilabereadin

Nowadays, coming-of-age novels appeal to just about every age group. There’s something about the journey of finding one’s way, one’s passion, or one’s purpose, that appeals to us all as readers. There’s even new genres cropping up that focus on coming-of-age in different life stages! So if you enjoy coming-of-age novels then you’ll love this  group of must-reads that you won’t be able to put down. From tragedy to history and romance to loss, this list has got it all.

big girl

Big Girl by Mecca Jamilah Sullivan

Is there anything harder about growing up than learning to love your own body? For Malaya, getting dragged to Weight Watchers meetings with her mom and suffering the judgement of her peers at prep school is just part of the battle. Internally, she is contending with her own desires as she grows up in 90s Harlem. Set to the sounds of Biggie Smalls and Aaliyah, Malaya faces the confines of “femininity” and the world’s pressures to stay small in a body that won’t conform to either.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

In 1940s Dublin, the Avery name comes with wealth and prestige. Although that’s Cyril’s last name, his adoptive parents constantly remind him that the reputable name is not in his blood. Born to an outcast teenage girl but raised by wealthy parents, he’s always struggled to find his identity in the world. The one thing that keeps Cyril grounded is his unlikely friendship with Julian Woodbead, who tends to live life on the edge. Through years of trials and tribulations, along with exploring his home of Ireland, Cyril discovers what it means to find yourself in a world full of mysteries.

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

It’s the summer of 1932, and orphan Odie O’Banion has just committed a crime. The only choice he has is to grab his brother Albert and escape. With their friend Morse and a somber girl named Emmy, the foursome sets sail down Minnesota’s Gilead River in a stolen canoe. Hoping to start a new life in Mississippi, they embark on an adventure of a lifetime, learning to lean on each other along the way. Through their journey, they stumble upon other drifters, broken families, and farmers trying to make a living. This is a moving story about starting over and overcoming obstacles along the way.

Ready When You Are by Gary Lonesborough

This lightning bolt to the soul YA read fills a much-needed gap in the coming-of-age category. It’s a stunning love story between two Aboriginal boys — one who doesn’t want to accept he’s gay, and the boy who comes to live in his house who makes him realize who he is. The deftly woven tale is an honest and humorous look at coming into your own, and coming out. In it, Jackson spends time with his friends, trying to fit in and avoid the racist boys in town. When Jackson’s Aunty and annoying little cousins make their yearly visit from the city, this time an intriguing boy with a troubled past travels with them. As their friendship evolves, Jackson must confront the changes he feels about his relationships with his friends, family and community. And he must face his darkest secret — a secret he thought he’d locked away forever.

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Twenty-five-year-old Queenie Jenkins is ready to get back on the dating scene after recovering from a bad break-up. Unfortunately, picking quantity over quality has left her with more questions than answers. As a Black woman in a primarily white world, she wonders where she really fits in with work, dating and the social scene; it’s time for some serious soul searching to find out what it truly means to be happy. As Queenie peels back the layers and starts to discover who she is and what she wants, she experiences the highs and lows that make life both a maddening and beautiful journey.

West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge

On the brink of The Great Depression and the evil rise of Hitler, humans were struggling to make sense of the world in 1938. But there is also hope, and miracles can often be found in nature where there is a struggle. When two giraffes find a way to survive a hurricane while crossing the Atlantic, Woodrow is called to deliver them to the zoo. Embarking on a life that would involve these magical creatures, his experience is filled with adventure. So when he learns at age 105 that giraffes are going extinct, he makes it a mission to share his incredible life with these beautiful animals.

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

Alice is an author and a bit of a free spirit, so when she meets warehouse worker Felix, she asks him if he’d like to accompany her on a trip to Rome. Meanwhile, her best friend Eileen is in Dublin recovering from a break-up and rebounding with her childhood friend, Simon. Even though these four are young and wild, living life to the fullest, they know that the time is coming when they will all have to take things a bit more seriously and start thinking about what life looks like long-term. Worried about intertwining love, sex and friendship, this is a beautiful story about the tangled webs we weave.

The Family by Naomi Krupitsky

Even though Antonia Russo and Sofia Colicchio are different as night and day, the one thing they have in common is their family bond. Every Sunday, their families get together, and their fathers talk about business and bond over the importance of loyalty. But when Antonia’s father ends up missing, it causes massive upheaval in their tight-knight group. As the women grow older, the gap grows more prominent, until one day when things come to a head. As they begin to question everything about family, society and keeping secrets, one of them will snap and completely turn their worlds upside down.

Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan

Megs is a whiz with numbers and is attending Oxford University with a scholarship for her mathematical skills. Although, there is one dark cloud that looms over her: her beloved brother George doesn’t have long to live. Obsessed with the book by C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, he expresses to his sister that his dying wish is to find out where Narnia came from. Since Mr. Lewis is a professor at her school, she takes a chance and starts a conversation. But throughout the discussions, he leaves it a mystery, giving Megs more to think about than she ever imagined.

The Lightness by Emily Temple

Olivia’s father was her hero, so she was devastated when he disappeared in the mountains a year ago. Unable to move on, she decides to run away and attempt to find out what happened to her dad. As she follows the same path, she is led to the Levitation Center. Deciding to enroll in a program for girls, she quickly bonds with the other females who are fully immersed in the experience. Convinced that they can all learn to levitate and transcend science through beliefs and physics, she starts to see that this is a battle for survival, and not everyone will make it out alive.

Credence by Penelope Douglas

As the daughter of celebrity mom and producer dad, you’d think Tiernan had it all. But even though she grew up with money and status, she lacked a connection with her parents. Tiernan spent her formative years growing up in boarding schools, longing for a family life. When her parents suffer an untimely death, she can’t help but feel numb since they were never close. Just shy of eighteen, she’s sent to live with extended family in the Colorado woods. She begins to learn what it’s like to lean on others and the importance of boundaries, along with the devastation that follows when lines are crossed.

If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio

For four years, seven students spent their time re-enacting plays by Shakespeare at the Dellecher Classical Conservatory. Although the actors were full of life with bright futures ahead of them, they were also fueled by fierce competition. With each passing year, tensions grew, and things took a tragic turn. As the lines blurred between who was playing the villain versus the hero, both onstage and off, their final opening night resulted in tragedy, sending Oliver Marks to jail for ten years. Now, Detective Colborne wants answers, and he is ready to talk about what happened that fateful night.