The best books to understand why characters struggle to achieve their goals in coming of age novels

Who am I?

When I think of what it means to come of age, I think of the sacrifices one makes to be the best at what he/she enjoys doing against the challenges of life to experience the joy of living. When I failed not being successful as an actor after studying it for ten years in New York City, I came back home and finished college to become a writer. Now, I write the thrill of young characters with a talent to confront society to fulfill a dream, and if they fail, how to overcome it with the help of others, prayer, and hard work.  


I wrote...

Nina’s Salvation for Joey

By Steven Prevosto,

Book cover of Nina’s Salvation for Joey

What is my book about?

Nina’s Salvation for Joey is a young adult coming of age book. 

In 1974, twenty-one-year-old Joey Maks’ rock band imploded in the Midwest, and the love of his life abandoned him.  Depressed and wanting to kill himself, he takes a bus to his Grandmother Nina’s house, where he hopes to find his salvation. 

The books I picked & why

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The Midnights

By Sarah Nicole Smetana,

Book cover of The Midnights

Why this book?

One book that I really recommend reading is the novel The Midnights by Sarah Nicole Smetana. The main character, Susannah, is a seventeen-year-old girl who plays a mean guitar like her former rock star father whose attention she craves very much. She is driven with passion to pursue her dream even after her father suddenly dies unexpectedly, and must uproot to a new city where she eagerly takes on the challenge. The story is an emotionally charged coming-of-age novel involving loss, creativity, and feeling confident in your voice, while feeling confident in your choices to define who you are. 

The Midnights

By Sarah Nicole Smetana,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This voice-driven coming-of-age YA novel is perfect for fans of Katie Cotugno and Playlist for the Dead.

Susannah Hayes has never been in the spotlight, but she dreams of following her father, a former rock star, onto the stage. As senior year begins, she's more interested in composing impressive chord progressions than college essays, certain that if she writes the perfect song, her father might finally look up from the past long enough to see her. But when he dies unexpectedly, her dreams--and her reality--shatter.

While Susannah struggles with grief, her mother uproots them to a new city. There, Susannah…

Sold Out

By Melody Carlson,

Book cover of Sold Out

Why this book?

The novel Sold Out is a favorite book of mine because Carlson’s main female character, Chloe Miller, forms her own band while struggling early on until they become a hit in their community. Success, however, brings them problems of finding out who their real friends are. Even when the band is discovered by a talent scout from Nashville, conflicts erupt amongst the band members and attitudes start clashing, and Chloe’s dream is falling apart. However, she refuses to give up, and she finds the strength through God and prayer to make the decisions necessary to be proud of her accomplishments. 

Sold Out

By Melody Carlson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sold Out as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Chloe Miller and her fellow band members must sort out their lives as they become a hit in the local community. Accustomed only to being scorned and marginalized, Chloe suddenly has to decide who her real friends are, and who's just along for the ride. Now her generosity gets her in more trouble than ever. And all too soon after a talent scout from Nashville discovers the trio, their explosive musical ministry begins to encounter conflicts with family and school. Exhilarated yet frustrated, Chloe puts her dream in God's hand and prays for Him to work out the details.

The Outsiders

By S.E. Hinton,

Book cover of The Outsiders

Why this book?

I was aware of gangs in schools close to where I lived while growing up.  When I read S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, I was amazed how dangerous they were. Ponyboy, S. E. Hinton’s main character, is fourteen, and hardened by poverty after his parent’s death. He is being raised by his older brothers, Darry and Sodapop. They live in a poor neighborhood and are in a gang because the Socs, a ruthless gang of rich kids who live not too far from them, enjoy calling them greasers and beating them up. But when Ponyboy’s best friend, Johnny, kills a Soc in a fight, Ponyboy faces a whirlwind of surrounding violence and difficult times ahead.  

The Outsiders

By S.E. Hinton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

50 years of an iconic classic! This international bestseller and inspiration for a beloved movie is a heroic story of friendship and belonging.

Cover may vary.

No one ever said life was easy. But Ponyboy is pretty sure that he's got things figured out. He knows that he can count on his brothers, Darry and Sodapop. And he knows that he can count on his friends-true friends who would do anything for him, like Johnny and Two-Bit. But not on much else besides trouble with the Socs, a vicious gang of rich kids whose idea of a good time is…

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

By Stephen Chbosky,

Book cover of The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Why this book?

Once I read about Charlie, the main character in Stephen Chbosky’s novel, I was intrigued how a shy, bookish kid like me could become so wild and crazy in his first year of high school. Charlie is the main character who at fifteen writes about his freshman experience not unlike a diary. The story is written through Charlie’s detailed, and very personal letters. School begins with him being bullied. He finds it difficult to make friends, but finally there’s a boy he can relate to who is gay and who introduces Charlie to his sister, Sam. Love takes hold of Charlie, leaves him, he goes to parties, takes drugs, wants to kill himself, feels guilty over the death of his aunt, but finally seeks help from a psychiatrist. 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

By Stephen Chbosky,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Perks of Being a Wallflower as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A modern cult classic, a major motion picture and a timeless bestseller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story.

Charlie is not the biggest geek in high school, but he's by no means popular.

Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie is attempting to navigate through the uncharted territory of high school. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and music - when all one requires to feel infinite is that…

The Contender

By Robert Lipsyte,

Book cover of The Contender

Why this book?

Robert Lipsyte wrote a powerful coming of age novel entitled, The Contender. Alfred, a Black seventeen-year-old high school dropout, lives in New York City with his aunt after his father left and his mother died. Alfred is wasting his life hanging around gang members, until they want to break into the store where he works. Alfred forgets to tell them about the new alarm system and they beat him up. He is found nearly unconscious and helped home by Henry, who works at a gym where its owner, Mr. Donatelli, trains famous boxers. Alfred decides to train to be a fighter. The grueling work teaches him not only to be a contender in the ring but in life outside of it.  

The Contender

By Robert Lipsyte,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The breakthrough modern sports novel The Contender shows readers the true meaning of being a hero.

This acclaimed novel by celebrated sportswriter Robert Lipsyte, the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in YA fiction, is the story of a young boxer in Harlem who overcomes hardships and finds hope in the ring on his path to becoming a contender.

Alfred Brooks is scared. He’s a high-school dropout, and his grocery store job is leading nowhere. His best friend is sinking further and further into drug addiction. Some street kids are after him for something he didn’t…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in bildungsroman, grief, and life satisfaction?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about bildungsroman, grief, and life satisfaction.

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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