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Coming of Age Novels in the Middle Years

Updated: Jul 18, 2022

In the library, we often witness a shift in reading trends in the middle years that starts around Year 5 and lasts through to Year 9. Suddenly, instead of hunting for the latest fantasy, mystery or detective books, the students will whisper to us that they want to try a book about something ‘real’. Often the catalyst may be reading ‘Wonder’ by P.J. Palacio in class; something they’ve experienced in their friend or family relationships; or just a general shift in interests as they mature. Whatever it may be, this change in reading trends is an important step for students as they grow up and transition into teenagers.

Regardless of how well supported they feel at home and school, students begin to look for realistic fiction or ‘coming of age’ novels when they want to hear about the experiences of others or ‘walk a mile’ in someone else’s shoes. Of course, they always have their parents to reassure them that what they are experiencing is completely normal, but the insight a ‘coming of age’ novel can provide, as students witness the protagonist transition from child to teen and overcome hurdles in their relationships and self-identity, lets them to know they are not alone.

While the classic ‘coming of age’ books we read as children, such as Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomery, The Outsiders by S.E Hinton or (anything) Judy Blume, are still worthwhile, we are witnessing a fresh new wave being published that provide relevance to our students in encompassing changes in technology and current social justice issues. Unlike most genres in the library that go across both genders, we do find that ‘coming of age’ novels can be more gender specific as they can deal with hormones and physical changes in the body.

Two outstanding ‘coming of age’ novels that have crossed my reading pile recently are, Are you there, Buddha? by Pip Harry (girls) and Cardboard Cowboys by Brian Conaghan (boys).

Are you there, Buddha? provides an hilarious take on puberty and relationships as main character Bee navigates her first year of high school—a must read for every year 6/7 girl transitioning to secondary school. Cardboard Cowboys is a heartfelt story about a young boy struggling to fit in at high school and dealing with adversity in his family life. Perfect for year 7 and up, it is not often we get such a realistic portrayal from a male perspective for this age group that is both mature and humorous at the same time.

Your children may choose to read ‘coming of age’ novels on their own, however, I often find that these are the novels students want to come back to the library and discuss with staff as they digest the storylines. You may like to try reading a ‘coming of age’ novel concurrently with your child and use this as a starting point for conversations around growing up.

Middle Years ‘Coming of Age’ recommendations

Years 5 and 6

Sickbay by Nova Weetman

Elsewhere Girls by Emily Gale and Nova Weetman

As Fast As I Can by Penny Tangey

Wink by Rob Harrell

As Happy As Here by Jane Godwin

The Year The Maps Changed by Danielle Binks

Talking To Alaska by Anna Woltz

Years 7, 8 and 9

Rainfish by Andrew Patterson

Tiger Daughter by Rebecca Lim

Everything I’ve Never Said by Samantha Wheeler

A Weekend With Oscar by Robyn Bavati

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