The best forgotten coming of age novels

Who am I?

As a daughter of a single-parent father, and a mom who had multiple sclerosis, I often tried to determine my future based on the past. Coming-of-age stories are essentially one’s desire to discover who they are and who they grow up to be. A story about how their past dictates and shapes their future based on those experiences, or lack thereof. Also, coming-of-age stories are often the results of hardships turned into opportunities otherwise missed if they had the so-called perfect upbringing.


I wrote...

I Adopted My Mom at the Bus Station

By Savannah Hendricks,

Book cover of I Adopted My Mom at the Bus Station

What is my book about?

Sandy is running away from her past, hoping to find answers for her future. But the truth is not what she expected, and Sandy ultimately discovers what she lost. A journey rich in history between 1993 and 2009, the truth, and determining forgiveness with a touch of humor, is the portrait of life.  

The books I picked & why

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Where the Heart Is

By Billie Letts,

Book cover of Where the Heart Is

Why this book?

The rawness of the story, mixed with hope and drive, makes for a heartbreaking and heartwarming tale. I’ve never been more invested in characters and cared about how their upbringing, or lack of it, affected their beliefs and life than until I read this novel. The story has forever stayed with me and was one of the first adult novels I ever remember reading. I’d never experienced a small town or such a community in my real life but was able to in this story. 

Where the Heart Is

By Billie Letts,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Where the Heart Is as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A 17-year-old pregnant girl heading for Califonia with her boyfriend finds herself stranded at a Wal-Mart in Oklahoma, with just $7.77 in change. But she's about to be helped by a group of down-to-earth, deeply caring people, including a bible-thumping nun and an eccentric librarian.


She's Come Undone

By Wally Lamb,

Book cover of She's Come Undone

Why this book?

Dolores is unlike any other character I’ve read before. Her humorously unapologetic nature is refreshing. I loved how true she was, yet also how she really didn’t have a strong sense of self. Dolores’s desire and need to be equal as well as have someone she can finally trust in her life is something we can all relate to. This story is honest and gripping and represents the importance of embracing life even if it doesn’t go according to plan.

She's Come Undone

By Wally Lamb,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked She's Come Undone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dolores Price is the wry and overweight, sensitive and pained, cynical heroine of this novel. The story follows her from four to 40, from her shattered family life through the hellish circles of sexual and food abuse to her gradual recovery and her fight to love again.


The Secret Life of Bees

By Sue Monk Kidd,

Book cover of The Secret Life of Bees

Why this book?

There are so many layers to this story that it’s almost a challenge to describe why it’s a brilliant book. Lily has a deep-seated desire to find out the truth, which is such a universal theme. But it’s not simply about truth; it’s about the relationship between a mother and daughter that is formed before birth and remains, in most cases, no matter what the outcome. What does this have to do with bees? A lot, because of the mirroring between the storyline and the bees proves a powerful message.

The Secret Life of Bees

By Sue Monk Kidd,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The multi-million bestselling novel about a young girl's journey towards healing and the transforming power of love, from the award-winning author of The Invention of Wings and The Book of Longings

Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily's fierce-hearted Black "stand-in mother," Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina-a town that holds the secret to her mother's…


Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

By Fannie Flagg,

Book cover of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Why this book?

This was the first book I recall reading where it had past and present chapters, and something I didn’t know I needed in my life until I read the novel. I don’t feel that story would’ve been as powerful told any other way. The characters are as rich as the town and I felt an equal connection to the landscape as I did Idgie and Evelyn. Most importantly, the story sheds a multitude of light on the process of a woman aging which is both beautiful and sobering.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

By Fannie Flagg,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Folksy and fresh, endearing and affecting, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is a now-classic novel about two women: Evelyn, who’s in the sad slump of middle age, and gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode, who’s telling her life story. Her tale includes two more women—the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth—who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, offering good coffee, southern barbecue, and all kinds of love and laughter—even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present will never be quite the same again.
 
Praise for Fried Green Tomatoes at…


Ellen Foster

By Kaye Gibbons,

Book cover of Ellen Foster

Why this book?

The main character, Ellen, represents the candor behind how often children were passed around when there was no family to care for them, even if not in the foster system in the 1970s. I loved the emotions brought on by this story between Daddy and daughter, Ellen, even though readers might understand how she can have any type of sadness over his death. This novel’s theme is a humble reminder that our life’s story is often not the worst sad story out there and to have empathy for others. 

Ellen Foster

By Kaye Gibbons,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Filled with lively humor, compassion, and intimacy."
—Alice Hoffman, The New York Times Book Review

"When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy." With that opening sentence we enter the childhood world of one of the most appealing young heroines in contemporary fiction. Her courage, her humor, and her wisdom are unforgettable as she tells her own story with stunning honesty and insight. An Oprah Book Club selection, this powerful novel has become an American classic.

Winner of the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction and the Ernest Hemingway…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in bildungsroman, South Carolina, and Oklahoma?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about bildungsroman, South Carolina, and Oklahoma.

Bildungsroman Explore 220 books about bildungsroman
South Carolina Explore 25 books about South Carolina
Oklahoma Explore 28 books about Oklahoma

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Salvage the Bones, Wild, and Running with Scissors if you like this list.