Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly linkup of book bloggers hosted by The Broke and The Bookish! This week's theme was a fill in the blank: top ten books in a particular genre. I don't do much "genre" reading (literary fiction is probably the biggest through-line), but I have read a lot of coming-of-age novels. Even as an adult, there's something so universal and compelling about these kind of stories. I think we're all still carrying around the psychic scars of our own growing-up process, so they're easy to identify with. Or maybe that's just me. Anyways, here are my ten absolute favorites.
The Last Picture Show: Small-town Texas high school senior Sonny doesn't have a lot of direction. Over the course of that year and the couple months following, though, he plays his last season of football, covets his best friend's girl, loses his virginity to his coach's wife, experiences the death of his father figure, has a brief fling with the aforementioned best-friend's-girl, and another person close to him dies. At the end, he finds himself at a high school football game and feeling desperately alone on the sidelines. His innocence in just about every sense of the word is lost and McMurtry writes it with beautiful poignancy.
The Lords of Discipline: Will McLean is on the cusp of graduation from The Institute, a prestigious military college when he gets assigned the task of protecting the school's first black student. It takes him back to his truly hellish freshman year hazing experience, which did a number on him, and the situations he finds himself in during his final year (first love and loss, the death of a roommate, a fight against a shadowy group) rob him of any last vestiges of childhood. He's a man, for better or worse, by the end. This book is seriously amazing.
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn: This book follows Francie Nolan from her childhood through to her early adulthood. Any bookish soul will see themselves in library-haunting, education-loving Francie, and while there are few "big events" in the book, we read along as she goes from a little girl to a young woman, ready to go out into the world and conquer.
To Kill A Mockingbird: We've all read this one, right? I don't know that I've ever met someone who's read TKAM who doesn't love it. Scout is a little younger than your usual 16-20 year old coming-of-age protagonists, but what she goes through as her father defends a black man accused of rape and she digs into the mystery of her neighbor, Boo Radley. Things get pretty real for Scout, and if she's not quite a woman by the end of it all, she's not a little girl anymore either.
The Cider House Rules: Homer Wells is raised in an orphanage run by Wilbur Larch, a kindly abortionist (long before the procedure was legal). Homer is trained in the performance of but vociferously opposed to the termination of pregnancy, and moves away to begin a new life in on an apple farm. It's there that he learns that the world isn't always as neatly black and white as he would like it to be and he's forced to come to terms with the reality that his father figure is a better man than Homer gives him credit for.
The Giver: It's an oldie (I read it in middle school), but a goodie. At the age of 12, the members of Jonas' dystopian sameness-oriented society have their professional futures chosen by their elders. Jonas is picked as the receiver of memory, the one who holds all the accumulated memories of the past, good and bad, that have been denied to the populace as a whole so they can be more numbly content. Joy, and hunger, and despair, and delight turn Jonas from a normal boy to an adult who makes difficult and hard choices.
Sabriel: On the more fantasy side of things, Sabriel is a young woman about to graduate from school, who is thrust into adult responsibility when her beloved father dies, leaving her an orphan. She's called upon to fill his role as a sort of anti-necromancer and keep the world safe from the dead and those who would manipulate them to their own ends. A young schoolgirl becomes a powerful woman, and that's always catnip for me.
The Golden Compass: Oh man Lyra Belacqua is the best. A tough-as-nails little wildcat of a girl raised by scholars in a parallel world, she longs for nothing more than a real family. When she finds out who her parents actually are and what they do, she becomes a leader of a rebellion against them and all they stand for. This book is crazy amazing (as are its sequels) and Lyra is awesome.
White Oleander: Figuring out one's relationship with one's parents, is, to me, a hallmark of actual adulthood. Astrid only has the one parent she knows, but Ingrid is enough to deal with for any one person. Astrid's experiences in foster care and the various mother-types she encounters help her come to terms with who she is, who her mother is, and their overlaps. I haven't re-read it in years but it still sticks with me.
Harry Potter (the whole series): I know, this is cheating. These are seven books. But taken together, they tell one entire and incredible coming-of-age story, so I'm giving myself a pass here.