The best books with coming-of-age characters teaming up to face the unknown

Alan M. Clark and Lisa Snellings Author Of Night Birds
By Alan M. Clark and Lisa Snellings

Who are we?

Both of us cherish vivid memories of childhood. We love to explore in writing the frequently amusing shifts in perception and understanding that come with growing up. Such ever-changing perspectives lead to a lot of mistakes. We two have sure made a lot of them. Human beings are goofy enough to hide fearfully from love, run headlong and giddy into danger, devour the world in a mad effort to seize control. Each and every one of us is the unreliable narrator of our own lives. We might laugh at our mistakes or cry, but conflict is inevitable. That is where we find our stories.


We wrote...

Night Birds

By Alan M. Clark and Lisa Snellings,

Book cover of Night Birds

What is our book about?

In Night Birds, Lucy's grandmother, Annie Maude, may be a witch, her school's lunch lady might be a murderer, and a mysterious figure stalks her in the small South Carolina town where she lives. The chapters consider themes of mental illness, religion, sexual orientation, witchcraft, and death as seen through the eyes of this plucky girl growing up in a haunted house in the 1960s. Charming, provocative, funny, and creepy as Hell, Night Birds will shake you up before leaving you all warm and fuzzy inside.

The books we picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

To Kill a Mockingbird

By Harper Lee,

Book cover of To Kill a Mockingbird

Why this book?

This novel does a good job showing the difficulty small children have knowing just how to see the world while learning right from wrong, and how, if given emotional room to grow, they most often gain a sense of self that allows their essential goodness to emerge. As a child, I identified with the children depicted in part because I am a child of the American South, raised in a part of the country where being an eccentric is tolerated, even valued, unless and until a scapegoat is needed. The story gives me a nostalgia for a time when historical injustices in the South were beginning to be addressed, rather than denied, as they so often are today.

To Kill a Mockingbird

By Harper Lee,

Why should I read it?

22 authors picked To Kill a Mockingbird as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.'

Atticus Finch gives this advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of this classic novel - a black man charged with attacking a white girl. Through the eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Lee explores the issues of race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s with compassion and humour. She also creates one of the great heroes of literature in their father, whose lone struggle for justice pricks the conscience of a town steeped…


Something Wicked This Way Comes

By Ray Bradbury,

Book cover of Something Wicked This Way Comes

Why this book?

Something Wicked This Way Comes is for me about personal perspective and how our own shame and regret can darken our experience of the world and leave us emotionally vulnerable in our striving to reach our hearts’ desire. As an alcoholic, I did a lot of stupid things while intoxicated and trying to reach my heart’s desire, which was to be a successful illustrator. As a sober alcoholic now, I recognize a lot of that intoxicated striving in certain characters in the novel, especially, Jim Nightshade, Mr. Tetley, Mr. Crosetti, and Miss Foley, while the sobering influence of Will Holloway and the redemptive love of Charles Holloway work their own magic against that of the evil carnival.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

By Ray Bradbury,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Something Wicked This Way Comes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of Ray Bradbury’s best-known and most popular novels, Something Wicked This Way Comes, now featuring a new introduction and material about its longstanding influence on culture and genre.

For those who still dream and remember, for those yet to experience the hypnotic power of its dark poetry, step inside. The show is about to begin. Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. The carnival rolls in sometime after midnight, ushering in Halloween a week early. A calliope’s shrill siren song beckons to all…


The Goldfinch

By Donna Tartt,

Book cover of The Goldfinch

Why this book?

Even the tiniest things mean something. As a nearsighted child, I tended to examine my surroundings up close, filling nooks and crannies with stories. Reading The Goldfinch was a bit like experiencing a story from my own nearsighted point of view. At the story’s heart, we find the painting of the same name, by Carel Fabritius. The tiny chain around the leg of the bird isn’t noticed at first, but once seen changes everything for the viewer. Tartt tells a large tale while concentrating on the smallest elements. In an instant of time, the life of the small boy in the story is changed forever. Thereafter, each of his decisions, even the seemingly insignificant ones carry consequences that take him on a long journey through darkness to redemption.

The Goldfinch

By Donna Tartt,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Goldfinch as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2014 Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless, largely absent father, survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart. Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is tormented by an unbearable longing for his mother, and down the years clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld. As he grows up, Theo learns to glide between the drawing rooms of the…


The Ocean at the End of the Lane

By Neil Gaiman, Elise Hurst (illustrator),

Book cover of The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Why this book?

The Ocean at the End of the Lane speaks to me about my need to reclaim in adulthood some of the magic from my childhood. It’s told from the perspective of an adult character, a broken man, never named, looking back on his childhood. Memories come back upon returning to his childhood home. While realizing some hard truths about his upbringing, he also remembers the real magic he experienced with a childhood friend. Recalling that the pond in his rural neighborhood had the actual ability to become an ocean, he learns that hard truths and magic are not mutually exclusive, and that dangers lurk in both. Child and man become one.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

By Neil Gaiman, Elise Hurst (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Ocean at the End of the Lane as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD 'BOOK OF THE YEAR'

AN ACCLAIMED WEST END THEATRE PRODUCTION *****

'Neil Gaiman's entire body of work is a feat of elegant sorcery. He writes with such assurance and originality that the reader has no choice but to surrender to a waking dream' ARMISTEAD MAUPIN

'Some books just swallow you up, heart and soul' JOANNE HARRIS

'Summons both the powerlessness and wonder of childhood, and the complicated landscape of memory and forgetting' GUARDIAN

---

'My favourite response to this book is when people say, 'My childhood was nothing like that - and it was as if…


The Body

By Stephen King,

Book cover of The Body

Why this book?

The Body is Gordie’s odyssey into imagination. As we would be inclined to do, he wants to see the dead boy out of morbid curiosity. He also wants to be the hero who found the body. The odyssey tests and reveals Gordie’s character and that of his three friends. As with the boys, we bear some lonely disappointments and pains. We’d be going to see the dead body merely so we could think to ourselves, at least that’s not me. Perhaps that’s what motivates them too. Who doesn’t do that? Yet their quest doesn’t lead only to an unknown dead boy, but to the dead boy in all of them, perhaps all of us. They are brought together as one by the experience and win the prize—they are alive.

The Body

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Body as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Set in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine

#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephen King’s timeless novella “The Body”—originally published in his 1982 short story collection Different Seasons, and adapted into the 1986 film classic Stand by Me—is now available as a stand-alone publication.

It’s 1960 in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine. Ray Brower, a boy from a nearby town, has disappeared, and twelve-year-old Gordie Lachance and his three friends set out on a quest to find his body along the railroad tracks. During the course of their journey, Gordie, Chris Chambers, Teddy Duchamp, and Vern…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in bildungsroman, New York State, and magical realism?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about bildungsroman, New York State, and magical realism.

Bildungsroman Explore 220 books about bildungsroman
New York State Explore 492 books about New York State
Magical Realism Explore 115 books about magical realism

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Glass Castle, Anne Frank, and On the Road if you like this list.