12 July 2019

6 Coming-of-Age Stories to Read in July

I have a soft spot for coming-of-age stories (don’t we all?). They tend to tease out those strong emotions, as our protagonist comes hard against the end of childhood (or new adult) innocence. As I was looking through my eReader for my next book, I spotted a half dozen novels coming out this month classified as coming-of-age. I’m not completely sure which one I’ll read first, but here are my choices.

review of Lara Williams’s Supper ClubI was attracted to Lara Williams’s Supper Club (Putnam, July 9) because it’s the coming-of-age story of a twenty-something woman who is facing body image issues, loneliness, and a love of cooking and eating food. When Roberta meets her new best friend—who’s as outgoing as Roberta is introverted—they start an after-hours, eat-till-you-drop, women-only club in which members are encouraged to lose themselves in their passions. It’s wild, it’s fun . . . until, for Roberta, it isn’t. What happens when she truly faces herself? Set in contemporary London, the novel tackles eating, bodies, indulgence, women’s friendship, and (of course) hunger.

review of If You Want ot Make God Laugh by Bianca MaraisI like the way Bianca Marais focuses on tough, real-life issues in her novels. Her newest book, If You Want to Make God Laugh (Putnam, July 16), is about three very different women looking for healing and redemption in post-Apartheid South Africa. Two middle-aged white sisters—one an ex-nun, one an ex-free spirit—reunite on their failed family farm, each running from her past. Meanwhile in a camp for the homeless, a black teenager is trying to find a way out of her pregnancy. When a dark-skinned baby boy is left on the sisters’ doorstep and the girl later shows up seeking a job, the women’s complex emotions surrounding motherhood, choices, the future, and race converge.

review of Alexi Zentner’s Copperhead I could not resist Alexi Zentner’s Copperhead (Viking; July 9) because it combines two of my favorite fiction elements: how life can change in the second it takes to make a decision and a coming-of-age experience for a teen. Jessup, a high school senior and star football player, has one dream: accept a football scholarship and escape his small-town, white-trash life. Even though his brother is in jail for killing two black men and his stepfather is being released from jail for the same crime, he has hope for his future, until he’s in a car accident and turns to his family’s white supremacist church for help. Just how much can the liberal teen take and can he be pushed far enough to stand up for himself and his own mistakes? Set in upstate New York.

review of Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim WellsShatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells (Simon & Schuster BYR, July 30) takes a different tack. In this new epic fantasy, a quiet young girl must find the strength and wherewithal to rescue her kidnapped girlfriend. Although she’s never seen herself as a fighter, Maren comes up with a scheme to steal one of the emperor’s dragons, but first she must apprentice herself to the dragon trainer. Mixed with familiar fantasy elements (dragons, prophecies, rebellion) are themes of love, growing up, and facing our demons. Set in a fictional world with LGBTQ+ characters. This novel is an Indie Next pick for July, though not every reviewer was enthusiastic.

I love the cover of Goodnight Stranger by Miciah Bay Gault (Park Row, July 30), but that’s not the only reason I want to read this book. This is another novel that mixes some of my favorite themes: family story, thriller, and coming-of-age. A brother and sister live a fairly isolated life in their beach-side home on a fictional island off the coast of Massachusetts. Their parents are gone and a brother died in infancy, but the pair is doing okay, even if ultra-shy Lucas seems incapable of taking care of himself. When a stranger arrives on the island who seems to know way too much about the siblings and their family, twenty-something Lydia has questions: Who is this man, what does want, and can he be trusted? His presence forces Lydia to reassess the past, risk her relationship with Lucas, face her long-held fears, and confront the stranger with what she learns before it's too late to save herself and her brother.

review of Sarah Elaine Smith’s Marilou Is Everywhere Now for something a little more traditional in a coming-of-age story, take a look at Sarah Elaine Smith’s Marilou Is Everywhere (Riverhead, July 30).  Cindy and her brothers have, once again, been abandoned by their mother. Although the boys keep half an eye on her, Cindy's mostly on her own. So when her brother’s middle-class girlfriend goes missing, Cindy slips into her place, tending to the girlfriend's ailing and delusional mother, who mistakes Cindy for her own daughter. At first, the teen loves having a stable home, feeling a mother’s love, and discovering how the other half lives. But even at only fourteen, Cindy soon realizes she must take stock of what she’s doing and assess the pull and meaning of her birth family. Set in rural Pennsylvania, this is the story of a neglected girl who finds a home, but at what cost?


bermudaonion 7/12/19, 7:35 AM  

I love coming of age stories too. Of this list, Marilou is Everywhere appeals to me the most - I love that cover!

rhapsodyinbooks 7/12/19, 8:54 AM  

Ditto on the appeal of coming of age stories!

Vicki 7/12/19, 2:39 PM  

Supper Club, Copperhead, and Marilou Is Everywhere sound good! I have Goodnight Stranger by Miciah Bay Gault on hold (#2) at my library.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 7/12/19, 5:26 PM  

I do love a good coming of age story - all these are new to me so thanks.

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