People who don’t read much YA often opine that YA novels are inherently Bildungsroman-esque. This is patently rubbish, but it’s true there is a strong tradition of coming-of-age narratives within YA. And because YA is, mostly, read and written by women these are stories of girls becoming women. Stories that girls and boys need to read, just as we all read Catcher in the Rye and Rumblefish.
Totally gratuitous pic
There wasn’t much else in West Harrow library when I was 12 years old.
But coming-of age is an intensely personal experience and one that never stops. We grow away and towards ourselves all through our lives and the coming-of age novel thus has resonance at any age.
When musing on my particular favourites I realised that my picks mostly have a girl protagonist who is an outsider, often of diverse heritage and a fantasy element. But not always. Among Others by Jo Walton was published as speculative fiction for adults, winning a Hugo and a Nebula. Sherman Alexie’s seminal novel is YA contemporary realism. Mortal Fire by Elizabeth Knox and The Changeover by Margaret Mahy could fall into that much maligned ‘supernatural romance category-but they are more about a girl coming into her own (supernatural) powers.
Secret Scribbled Notebooks by Joanne Horniman is realism, though and possibly my favourite YA novel ever. But I’m not going to tell you about it, because these are books with no obvious ‘hook.’ Books where everyday life is magic and magic is so entwined with becoming that fantasy verges on magic realism. Books that you press into friend’s hands, imploring them to ‘just read it’
That’s what I’m doing now.
But here’s the link to my GoodReads shelf: with reviews, if that’s not enough for you.
And other peoples favourites (WRONG obviously but still)