Best Coming of Age Books Reviewed and Rated in 2018

Coming of age books are a staple in many children’s lives. They weave tales of kids or teens just like the reader who struggles to figure out who they are, what their purpose is in life, and end up going through many relatable situations which is why they’re such an important part of any reading list. In order to have a dynamic coming of age book, you need to have an interesting and relatable main character, a problem (or several), usually an innocent love interest and that one person who just seems to understand it all. These books are great lesson-teachers and make kids feel like they’re not so alone when going through certain stages of their young adult life. Many books revolve around common situations such as puberty changes, your first crush, and even making friends or losing them. Some may touch on family problems such as divorce or not getting along with your parents, which can be comforting when kids feel like they’re suddenly a bit more understood, even if it’s only by a novel.

These books can help to shape a child’s life even if it’s in a subtle way; these stories will both captivate, encourage, and inspire them. Not to mention, reading as a whole is a wonderful activity for preteens and teenagers alike. Transitioning to these types of books can be challenging and even overwhelming for some readers, which is why we’ve gone ahead and found the best books possibly to help with the process. We’re positive that your child will find comfort in tagging along for an adventure with any one of these characters and their friends. They are all real page-turners and are sure to delight and build your child’s reading skills, as well as their confidence.

10 Best Coming of Age Books Reviewed 

 

1. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

1. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Follow Ponyboy along for the ride as he learns about life, hardships, and that family and friends really are everything. This book is a well-renowned classic and for good reason.
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This iconic book was on the summer reading list of many parents we’re sure, but the thing about books is that they’re never irrelevant. Just like Ponyboy is told in this novel to “stay golden”, this book has proved time and time again that it truly is golden, timeless, and will always be a classic. To this day, kids are still encouraged to read this book by the time they get to middle school and has been made even more popular due to the well-received movie it inspired. Your child will follow along with the tale of Ponyboy as he figures out life after being put in a less-than-stellar situation. His brothers, Darry and Sodapop, are along for the ride with him and the trio do whatever it takes to stay together and make it -- Even though they often get in plenty of trouble. Ponyboy’s friends stand by his side through thick and thin and this book is truly a display of determination, hard work, and growing up, plain and simple. Kids will learn about having friends who are like family, being independent, and how to be strong in the face of adversity and hardship.

Benefits
For being written in 1967, this book is still so relevant in today’s day and age. It teaches the basics and friendship, fighting for what you want, and being strong no matter what life throws at you.

What We Like About It
This book is so special because the author, S.E. Hinton, has a letter to her readers feature right on the inside cover. This letter details her own hardships in life and the fact that she wrote The Outsiders when she was only 16-years-old, which is an inspiring story in itself.
Pros

Teaches valuable life lessons

The story is entertaining and interesting

It’s not too long

Features a personal “letter to the readers”

Easy to understand and follow

Cons

The ending might make some readers emotional

2. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

2. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
There's a little bit of magic in every young adult story, some more than others. The reader will find themselves both delighted and enchanted by the made-up world of Terabithia.
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You might recognize the title of this book as well because it was also turned into a major motion picture. The beautiful thing about this book is that it celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2017, and this book is a special edition copy with a note from Katherine Peterson herself. It also features a forward by Kate DiCamillo, a bestselling author by the New York Times. The book itself revolves around a young boy named Jess Aarons, who’s favorite activity is running. Throughout the novel, he practices being the fastest in the school. Everything changes for him when he becomes friends with the one girl in school who can actually outrace him, and together, they create the magical world known as Terabithia. This book isn’t all happy moments but it does have a powerful lesson about love and friendship, which is something every child can relate to. It’s filled with wonderful characters who will enchant and delight any reader while relaying the idea of hope, willpower, and of never giving up.

Benefits
Not only was is this book an anniversary edition, but it was also an award-winner of the ALA Notable Children’s Book. It’s a cornerstone when it comes to young adult fiction and has something for everyone.

What We Like About It
The powerful messages that are conveyed in this one of a kind, the unique story truly make the book well worth reading. It’s great for boys and girls alike and will quickly become a new favorite.
Pros

Inspiring and magical story

The characters are easily related to

It’s perfect for middle school and beyond

The elements of the story are all easy enough to understand

It’s a fun read

Cons

There are some harsh words used in this book

3. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

3. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
From the same author who wrote The Fault in Our Stars is another novel that's just as engaging and enlightening. Follow Aza as she attempts to solve a mystery and learns a lot about life in the process.
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John Green is known most notably for his novel The Fault in Our Stars, which was recently produced as a movie. However, he has written many other young adult works of literature that are just as compelling and emotionally moving, including Turtles All the Way Down. This is one of his more recent works and came out in October of 2017, and with his reputation for excellence in young adult fiction preceding him, he has penned another novel that is just as brilliant and riveting. This book follows the story of Aza, a 16-year-old who has a mystery to solve. Along the way, she learns valuable lessons about friendship, love, and family, all while learning much more about who she is as a person. This book is great for late middle school and high school students and comes across as very relatable to teens, in particular. It’s interesting and engaging and anyone who has loved The Fault in Our Stars is sure to feel an undeniable connection to this novel as well.

Benefits
This novel teaches a powerful lesson about how to be strong when you’re dealing with things that you feel could break you. It’s a story about strength and determination, with characters who learn how to balance both in order to overcome.

What We Like About It
This unique title holds a place in many a reader’s hearts and we’re sure that your child will love it just as much. It’s an innocent coming of age story that’s great for any reading level.
Pros

Easily relatable main character

Interesting story

Very likable supporting characters

Great for any young adult age

Written by a bestselling author

Cons

Some found the story lacking compared to his other works

4. The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

4. The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
There's just something so satisfying about reading a novel after watching the movie that was inspired by it. Teens will love following Mia's story off-screen as much as they did watching in on-screen.
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You’ll begin to notice a trend with great young adult novels -- They all become movies! Chances are, your child has probably already seen The Princess Diaries movie featuring Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews. But have they read the book? If they haven’t, then now is their chance! The great thing about reading the book is that it goes so much further beyond the movie; The Princess Diaries is actually a book series that continues to tell the story over a span of over ten books, all revolving around the same premise. These books are fun, humorous, and easy to read and follow along with. The first book in the installment follows young teen Mia, as she lives out her slightly awkward journey through puberty and learns how to be a teen in high school. Her world is quirky but it’s all her own, that is until she finds out some very big, life-changing news: She’s actually a princess! Suddenly, Mia is faced with saying goodbye to the only life she’s ever known for the chance to make a difference and eventually lead a country, or remain Mia: the slightly awkward and invisible teen. Following Mia on this harrowing and at times, cringe-worthy, journey is one that kids won’t soon forget.

Benefits
Many times, if a child loves a movie, they’ll have a new appreciation for reading the book because they’ll learn things that movies will occasionally leave out. This book series will give them the chance to dive even further into the character who inspired Mia on-screen and allow them to follow her journey in full.

What We Like About It
Mia is a character that many teenagers can relate to. Growing up is awkward and at times even uncomfortable, and this book makes those situations relatable, real, and even a bit humorous when they need to be.
Pros

Inspired the movie

Extremely likable and relatable main character

Tells a story of how to make decisions

Inspirational

It’s part of an entire series

Cons

Some readers might not like the diary-style writing of the book

5. John Green Box Set by John Green

5. John Green Box Set by John Green
This box set contains everything that a John Green fan needs to spend a summer reading through some wonderful young adult stories. These books are filled with emotion and adventure and would be great for any fan of the author's work.
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Is your child a huge fan of John Green? Ever since The Fault in Our Stars, his writing has become increasingly popular amongst young adults. These books are compelling, emotionally-centered, and many have storylines that will remain with your child throughout their entire life. The re-readability on these books is wonderful and means your child will come back time and a time again to read these inspiring stories at various times throughout their life. This box set is perfect for any John Green fan or even for those who are new to the series. Included is Looking For Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, and The Fault in Our Stars. For lovers of the movie, this is an excellent way to introduce your child to the book that inspired the movie as well as many others by the bestselling author.

Benefits
This box set contains some of the best books by John Green and would make a great first addition to any teen’s young adult fiction collection. It features books that have charmed their way into the hearts of many and continue to do so.

What We Like About It
These are the type of books that turn non-readers into readers. They’re great for both girls and boys and will hold the attention of everyone.
Pros

Set of four books

Includes John Green’s most popular works

Easy to store with a four-book book jacket

All of these stories have great reception

They each offer something different in the way of growing up

Cons

The Kindle edition comes as one four-in-on book

6. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

6. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
This book might seem like your typical young adult fiction, but the story proves that it's so much more than that. This book covers issues about growing up that many teens face and will make them feel like they're not the only ones who go through them.
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Sarah Dessen is an incredible author with a particular way of speaking to teens through her young adult fiction. Out of the many novels she has published, all of which are easily relatable and revolve around common teen issues, Along for the Ride is one that’s emotional and brilliant. The story follows a teenage girl named Auden as she goes along her journey, trying to figure out who she is. During one of her many nightly escape routines where she takes her bike out and rides up and down the boardwalk, she meets a kid named Eli -- A boy who will inevitably change her life. Auden learns what it’s like to let go, make friends, and, most importantly, how to be herself when everything in life tells her not to. This is a story that’s centered around self-discovery and how that one special person might be able to help you change your life for the better… If you’re brave enough to let them in, that is.

Benefits
Sarah Dessen’s books are always centered around a solitary character who struggles with finding out who they are, a brutally honest and/or quirky best friend, and a male figure who comes in to change everything. The background of this book is set against family issues, which many teens struggle with and will easily relate to.

What We Like About It
There’s nothing sugar-coated when it comes to books such as these. As a teenager, you learn to deal with many things and face various challenges in order to overcome them. This book focuses on that in such a way that’s interesting but also familiar.
Pros

The main character is incredibly human

The book itself is very realistic

It’s very easy to read

The story is interesting and doesn’t have slow sections

The supporting characters are engaging and entertaining

Cons

Readers think the plot could have been stronger and not as dragged out

7. Paperboy by Vince Vawter

7. Paperboy by Vince Vawter
Set in the year 1959, this novel is one that's honest and real. Many readers will be exposed to issues they've not yet faced and learn a tale of acceptance and growing up.
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This book is a bit different than some of the others we’ve showcased on our list, mainly because the story focuses on an issue of the past, similar to The Outsiders. However, it’s the award winner of 12 different categories of young adult literature and for good reason, because the writing in this novel is flawless. Vince Vawter paints the picture of a boy with the name “Little Man” who leads a seemingly ordinary life during the year 1959 in Memphis, Tennessee. It’s during the summer of his newly appointed paper route that his life begins to change, and it’s here that the plot has been compared to that of To Kill A Mockingbird. This story is about the journey of a young boy as he wades through the process of growing up, learning, and understanding life as a whole. It’s relatively detailed and fitting for the years 1959 in a deep south town such as Memphis and will paint a picture of days past for all the readers who decide to open this book.

Benefits
The main theme of this book is focused on those who stutter, which is a common problem that affects many children and adults. This story will take readers along for the tale as they follow Little Man and how he learns more about the world around him and the people in it.

What We Like About It
This book isn’t your average, modern-day novel about a preteen who’s struggling with puberty. The issues go so much deeper than that and it carries a message from the past that readers will still relate to and understand to this day.
Pros

Interesting because it takes place in the past

Great story and very well-written

The main character is slightly younger than most

Gives kids an understanding of cultural issues and problems

A promising story with plenty of detail

Cons

It’s best for kids age 10 and older due to the nature of some topics

8. Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen

8. Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen
A Sarah Dessen first, this novel dives into the life of Colie, a girl who struggles with how she looks. Throughout this book, readers will be able to relate to her journey as she walks the line between who she truly is and who she can be... With a little help.
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One of the first books by Sarah Dessen, Keeping the Moon is a great example of everything that young adult fiction truly should be. This story follows a girl named Colie who is struggling in every aspect of her life while growing up. It’s an interesting story with many different elements that tackles issues such as being overweight, socially awkward, and dealing with quirky family members. What really changes Colie’s life is her time spent at the beach during one summer with her slightly odd aunt Mira, who always seems to have an odd, loveable but strange way about her. Colie is thrown into a completely new territory and finds herself befriending new people and even, possibly, falling in love for the first time with someone who is far outside of her comfort zone. Throughout the summer, Colie learns more about who she is, who she wants to be, and embraces the past she has had with her mother -- Another complicated character. Through this new life that she’s started, she is able to embrace everything that she is, can be, and make peace with her tumultuous past.

Benefits
This book features a fairly sensitive issue, but one that many kids might struggle with: Self-image. Because of that, this book might be everything they need to push their confidence just a bit higher and make them realize that they’re not alone in feeling how they do.

What We Like About It
Keeping the Moon is a strange title, but it’s a unique trademark of most of Sarah Dessen’s books. Each title has a way of bringing the story together and becomes a tagline for the main theme of the story; one that your child will have to read to figure out.
Pros

Tackles the issue of a negative self-image

Confidence-boosting

Contains eccentric and loveable characters

It has an innocent love interest

Captivating storyline

Cons

Some readers found the love story to be a bit dragged out

9. Go: A Coming of Age Novel by Kazuki Kaneshiro

9. Go: A Coming of Age Novel by Kazuki Kaneshiro
In this unique take on the issue of acceptance, teens will follow Sugihara as he determines how he best wants to live his life after starting a new school. Will his Korean background hold him back, or encourage him to follow his heart and be who is truly is?
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This is perhaps one of the most unique books on our list. It’s a different take on a personal coming of age story and has been translated into English by Takami Nieda. It’s an absolutely brilliant story set in Japan and is centered around self-identity and trying to be someone that you’re not just to fit in. The main character, Sugihara, begins attending a Japanese high school and, being Korean, is at risk of being singled out if anyone finds out. He’s already the victim of bullying due to his heritage, and after meeting a girl he begins to seemingly fall in love with, he’s at further risk for not being accepted. Sugihara must make a choice and face the music, classical music to be precise, and decide one of two things: Will he give away his real identity, or remain anonymous in who he truly is in order to avoid upsetting the status quo? This story is a clever and well-written truth about what happens when you’re different, and also a tale of acceptance and loving others, no matter who they are.

Benefits
In a way, this book is relatable to just about any teenager. No matter what you feel makes you different, all kids have, at one point, felt like they just don’t fit in and many feel the need to hide who they truly are.

What We Like About It
Hopefully, through this book, kids will be inspired to be fearless in who they are. It doesn’t matter whether you have a unique cultural background, has varying interests, or just feel like you don’t fit in -- Who you are is wonderful, and this book is proof of that.
Pros

Inspiring story

Completely relatable for most kids

Features a different cultural take on a common problem

Addresses the issue of being bullied

Will teach kids that it’s okay to accept who you are

Cons

Some readers found the storyline a bit hard to follow

10. Just As Long As We’re Together by Judy Blume

10. Just As Long As We’re Together by Judy Blume
Friendship is something that every preteen and teenage girls stuggles with, at least initially. The challenge comes when finding the balance between old friends and new, and how to ensure that both are loved and treasured equally.
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Some might find it a bit surprising to find Judy Blume on this list, as she was known for her books such as, Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret and Blubber. She was very popular over a decade ago with teens but her books have not declined in popularity and still remain classics to this day. Just As Long As We’re Together is an excellent piece of literature that focuses on friendship as the main theme of the novel. As with all of Judy Blume’s books, it’s incredibly well-written and really makes you feel as though you know every character personally. This book allows readers the chance to be inside the character’s heads and feel what they feel, thus making it incredibly relatable and puts it on a level that many novels never make it to. As the main character, Stephanie, finds herself drifting from her best friend when she makes friends with the new girl in town, an emotional struggle ensues. Stephanie is caught between balancing the old with the new and trying to decide if it’s possible to have two best friends. While this is the main theme of the novel, the story goes so much deeper than that and truly makes the reader feel for every single character, including Stephanie.

Benefits
This is an issue that many kids face and is just a common part of growing up. As Stephanie tries to figure out how to remain friends with Allison, the newcomer, she struggles with maintaining her life-long friendship with Rachel -- Evolving into an interesting and life-lesson type of tale.

What We Like About It
Judy Blume has been able to take something seemingly innocent and nonchalant such as making friends and turn it into a stressful and potentially heartbreaking situation. This story has it all and throws in some emotionally-loaded scenes that will have readers thoroughly captivated.
Pros

Turns an ordinary situation into something relatable

It’s an easy read

The characters are all so different but very likable

Inspiring in the way of making new friends while keeping older ones

A brutally honest tale about friendship

Cons

Targeted more toward preteen girls

Criteria Used in the Evaluation of the Best Coming of Age Books

Choosing books that provide the right balance of entertainment as well as relatability for preteens and teens is something that can often be challenging. In order to find books that would convey a clear message as well as hold the attention of a variety of ages, we had to do two things: Rate books based on the storyline and topics as well as rate them for readability and structure. Each one of these books made its way to our list because they all have something to offer in the way of a life lesson, and all do so in completely different ways. Each author on this list is also well-versed in the way of teenage life and has something to bring to the table that’s both captivating and inspiring. These books are so much more than pages glued into a spine, they’re tales of love, friendship, heartbreak, teenage angst, finding confidence and learning how to overcome most anything. It’s in these descriptive words that we found the need to include these books and ensure that they’re reaching teenagers all over the world because they each have a way of connecting to the reader.

The Real Benefits of Reading Young Adult Novels

Many people might wonder what’s so great about giving teens these novels when they’re only reading about situations they’re already familiar with. The magic lies within the words on the pages, though — It’s one thing to actually go through a situation, it’s another to read about it and have an unseen connection with a certain character. Books have a way of helping kids to understand what they’re going through personally because reading it from someone else’s point of view allows them to have a new understanding for their own problems.

The Issue of Puberty

Ah, the p-word that many preteens and teens dread. Puberty is a natural part of growing up and it’s also a natural part of the young adult fiction. Many stories either rely on it or revolve around some issue related to growing up, and this can be both comforting and entertaining for young readers. Being able to read something that is so highly relatable will make them feel like they’re more “normal” and can, and will, get through all of these changes that are happening. Each of these books features a different aspect of growing up and dealing with issues related to it, making them worthy of reading at any age.

Hot-Button Topics

It’s a common concern among parents whether or not they should let their children read books that have an issue such as racism, bullying, mental or physical disabilities, etc. However, the problem with this arises when they’re face-to-face with it in real life. If kids haven’t been exposed to it in a safe way, via a novel, how are they to deal with it when it’s right in front of them? Books such as Paperboy, Go: A Coming of Age Novel, and The Outsiders all focus on issues that might be uncomfortable to talk about, but must be addressed. These novels can teach kids from the perspective of a different time era, through various characters, and how each situation is handled. They’ll learn acceptance, tolerance, and, overall, how to be a genuine and kind person in a world that sometimes tries to tell them otherwise.

Reading While in School

One common concern parents might have when sending a child off to school with a book is how suitable it is for in-school reading. While these books might have topics that are a bit controversial, they don’t contain anything that would be construed as unusual for the preteen/teenage ground reading level. They’re perfectly fine to be used for book reports or during a reading hour, and can even be used for presentations. In fact, kids might be able to relate even more to these books and actually become excited about telling their classes about them through written or oral reports. They each have something unique about them and can be a key to a whole new world for your child. They might even enjoy being able to share these books with the rest of your family or their friends, as these are stories they’ll want to talk about.

FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q: What age is this appropriate for?

A: Any of these books would be perfect for kids aged 10 and older. Young adult fiction usually begins at age 10 when a child is a preteen.

Q: How should I deal with controversial issues in any of these books should questions arise?

A: You’d deal with them just as if your child had asked you any other question. Learning and knowledge is power, and teaching your children about these things before they reach adulthood will only reinforce a positive and accepting behavior.

Q: What reading level do most of these fall under?

A: Most of these books will be fairly easy for readers over the age of ten, however, some might be a bit more challenging. It’s best to make use of the “look inside” feature of each book to judge the vocabulary level as well as the length of the book to determine whether it’s right for your child.

Q: Are these appropriate to read in school?

A: Yes! All of these books have been praised and most are bestsellers and/or award-winning, and might even fall under your child’s school curriculum.

Q: Would they be okay for adults to read as well?

A: Of course. While these books are designed to be read by teenagers, they carry important life lessons that can be appreciated by any age.

Q: Is there any difference between the Kindle version and the Hardcover?

A: Some hardcover books might come with special features but for the most part, they’re interchangeable and are the same exact book.

Sources

  1. Natalie Barletta , The Benefits Of Reading Young Adult Literature, Informative Article,
  2. Admin, The Benefits of Using Young Adult (YA) Literature in Classrooms, Online Article,
  3. Mina Shah, The case for young adult literature, Informative Article,