Coming-of-age stories are universal. At one point or another, we all had to grown up — and we all know how difficult the journey through those formative years can be.
No matter how or when you grew up, one of the following genre’s staples will speak to you. From a rags-to-riches tale or a saga of unrequited love to an exploration of self-discovery or a family torn apart, there is something for everyone. Some are classics. Some are modern. Some are tragic. Some are hilarious. But they are all sure to touch you in some way.
The following are four of the best coming-of-age stories:
J.D. Salinger’s opus is an American classic, a book every young teen should read. It deals with that delicate, fleeting, confusing time when a young man starts to realize he will soon be forced into adulthood. It looks at the world of parents, teachers and bosses as a collection of sellouts who have abandoned the innocence and purity of childhood to become a horde of phonies.
Everyone encounters these feelings at some stage in life. As you realize you are growing up and maturing, the fear and conflict feels like something you — and you alone — are dealing with. It’s a tale as old as time, however, and it makes reading “The Catcher in the Rye” an absolute must.
The world of high school can feel artificial, even as you’re living it. Few movies capture this as perfectly as “Clueless.” Though the film may come off to some as a shallow tale of surface-level materialism, the glossy facade of Beverly Hills is just a stage for the deeper meaning at the heart of the story.
In the film, Alicia Silverstone’s iconic character, Claire, learns the value of helping others, not to judge a book by its cover and, most of all, how to love. While the comedic romance always keeps you entertained, Silverstone’s character also offers a touching portrayal of young romance that adds layers and nuance.
The French classic “Les Miserables,” written by Victor Hugo, is a tragic, heartbreaking and, at the same time, an uplifting commentary on the depths of suffering that a human can endure. The characters have everything ripped from them, yet somehow still manage to live their lives.
There’s a reason this play has been gripping crowds worldwide for more than 150 years. Even though the story is based in a historic epoch that many can no longer relate to, the journey of redemption and pain is universal and timeless.
Few works have ever had this type of staying power. It is truly one of the most profound stories we have, and no understanding of storytelling could be complete without Hugo’s masterpiece.
Some dreams are shared by everyone. When you’re young, you want to become a firefighter or an astronaut. A few years later, that will turn into a desire to become an actor. And eventually everyone will flirt with wanting to be a journalist for at least a little while.
That’s why Cameron Crowe’s 2000 film “Almost Famous” is so engaging. It follows an adolescent thrown into the world of rock ‘n roll writing by following a world-famous band on tour and chronicling the firsthand experience. The film’s young protagonist, William Miller, starts as a starstruck fly on the wall and eventually winds up partying like an honorary member of the band, hitting all the highs and lows that come with being an adored musician.
In this sense, he is living two dreams at once: rock star and writer. The exploits are sure to entertain, but the lessons he learns about himself are what make it a can’t-miss tale.