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Growing Pains: Our Favorite Coming of Age Novels

Spring’s warmer temps inevitably make us reminisce about our teenage years—driving around with the windows down, marathon sleepovers with friends, obsessing over crushes. Nostalgic for the growing pains of that era, we decided to tap our well-read staffers for their favorite coming of age tales. Read below to see our picks, and leave yours in the comments!

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith

“Attending two different middle schools growing up meant that there was a little overlap in my curriculum. I ended up having to read A Tree Grows In Brooklyn twice but scrappy little Francie and the lesson about rising above difficult situations was worth a second go around.”—Hilary, Editorial Intern

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., Adelle Waldman

“A coming-of-age can take place at any time: Some people grow up later than others (and some people never seem to at all). This novel, about a thirtysomething Brooklyn writer, was a wonderful, blistering, laugh-out-loud funny look into the eventual emergence from extended adolescence.” —Valerie, Editorial Marketing Copywriter

Candide, Voltaire

“As a truly ridiculous satire, Candide is rarely labeled a coming of age novel. However, this was the first story that taught me the importance of self-awareness, both personal and cultural, which I now covet as the most important trait of adulthood. Who knew all those butt jokes could have a positive influence?” —Nathaniel, Assistant Editor

A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle

“Yes, the main draw for me with this book as a child was the notion of traveling through the fifth dimension to different planets. For a while, I wanted to be an astronomer, and boy, did I relate to the nerdy main character, Meg Murry. But there's also a great lesson about the human power of love, the importance of family, and forgiveness—when Meg gets back home, she's a whole lot wiser than when she left.” — Bene, Director of Editorial Operations

The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

“Holden Caulfield's moody scorn for society perfectly captured my teen angst. Back then, everyone and everything was a phony to me.”—Ally-Marie, Assistant Editor

The Giver, Lois Lowry

“The Giver was my gateway to dystopian novels. Seeing the world through the eyes of a fellow child made it relatable to me, but the message was profound. I love all the questions it raises about what we'd be willing to give up in pursuit of a peaceful world. “—Amary, Copywriter

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, Judy Blume

“This is a must-read for every teenage girl. Through Margaret, Judy Blume eloquently explores the teenage psyche—from puberty-induced mood swings to all-consuming crushes—all without a note of condescension.”—Maura, Associate Editor

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