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Great Books with Coming-of-Age Themes

By kileyturner
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Everything is amazing, terrible, new, and unexpected when you're coming into adulthood. Sometimes you feel older than your years, while other times you want to crawl back into your parents' arms.
Worst Case, We Get Married

Worst Case, We Get Married

also available: eBook

Aïcha lives with her mother in Montreal's Centre-Sud neighbourhood. She's only thirteen but claims to be older. She has never known her father, and resents her mother for leaving Hakim, her stepfather. Her only friends are Mel and Jo, two local prostitutes, and Baz, a musician in his twenties, who comes to her rescue one day and with whom she proceeds to fall in love. Her impossible love for Baz, her precociousness and her rebellious streak come together into an explosive cocktail. Raw and hear …

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also available: Hardcover eBook

Sixteen-year-old Flannery Malone has it bad. She’s been in love with Tyrone O’Rourke since the days she still believed in Santa Claus. But Tyrone has grown from a dorky kid into an outlaw graffiti artist, the rebel-with-a-cause of Flannery’s dreams, literally too cool for school.

Which is a problem, since he and Flannery are partners for the entrepreneurship class that she needs to graduate. And Tyrone’s vanishing act may have darker causes than she realizes.

Tyrone isn’t Flannery’s on …

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The man is holding up a tiny, delicate glass bottle. It’s shaped like a bottle but it appears to be liquid fire. It is pulsing like it is a heart, and the heart is flushing with blood that is not blood but white, boiling light with a yellow halo.

The man dips the little vessel into a vat and there’s a hiss and a cloud of smoke and he lifts the glass heart out of the vat and it’s a perfect bottle for a love potion. [166-67]

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The Empress of Idaho

The Empress of Idaho


Bestselling and award-winning author Todd Babiak returns with an immersive and affecting story about a teenager's fascination with an enigmatic new woman in town whose past is catching up with her.

Monument, Colorado, July 1989. Fourteen-year-old Adam Lisinski is mesmerized the moment Beatrice Cyr steps into his life. Adam has a lot going for him: he's hoping to be a starter on his high school football team, he has a fiercely protective mom, a girlfriend, and a part-time job at Eugene's Gas Stop, …

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When she looked at me I saw what I had not seen. Our house was little more than a trailer. The blue vinyl siding was faded by the sun and carried years of dust. The front lawn was really a collection of weeds, but still it needed cutting.There was a filthy red chair with broken springs on our front porch. Weeks ago my mother had asked me to carry it to the corner so the garbage men could pick it up.
Now that the woman was looking at me I understood what Marv had said, that a man does not concern himself with gardening. I was too nervous and too ashamed to answer about the sweet williams. It did not matter because she had already turned and walked up his driveway. From a distance she seemed to float over the gravel. Marv raised his eyebrows and pointed in her direction with both his thumbs, took a step closer and whispered at me. He told me her name, Beatrice—like in poetry, he said. What poetry? It would come to him. Then: “Get this. We just got married.”
“You married her?”
“I goddamn married that woman.”
“Did you know her from somewhere before?”
“We met at O’Grady’s three nights ago.” He reached into the back pocket of his jeans and pulled out his thick, oily leather wallet. “How you set up for cash? I’ll give you a five if you’ll help me unload her things.”
I hopped into the bed of the old truck and lifted the only heavy piece of furniture, a solid wood coffee table with a sticker on the leg that said "$9." Marv grabbed a garbage bag full of clothes. 
"How's your mom?" 
"She's good."
There was no sidewalk on Jefferson Street. We stood on the meeting place of weed and gravel. Marv looked at the front of our house. There was a constellation of wet spots where his breasts had pressed against his shirt. Now that Beatrice was not watching he let himself go crooked.
“I’ll cut the lawn.” The hard edges of the coffee table dug into my palms. “And get rid of that chair.”
“If you get a chance. A lady only gets one first impression.”
Inside, his house smelled of cigarette smoke and chemical peaches. An aerosol can of room deodorant, with an old English orchard on the front, had fallen over on the kitchen counter. The morning sun shone through Marv’s beige curtainsand turned his living room the colour of weak tea. It was tidier than usual.
“Where would you like the table, ma’am?”
She wore big gold rings and bracelets. She was thin like a boy and tanned. The garbage bag of clothes leaked. Marv struggled to contain it. Three panties and a sock fell on the green shag carpet and Marv laughed and cussed as he kneeled to pick them up. Then the bag tipped and a fur coat fell out.
I tried to right the bag. It was hot and melty. Beatrice bent and rushed me like a dainty ram. “Jesus Christ, child. That floor isn’t clean. Pick up that coat.” 
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Now Beatrice, a boy like this never seen one of those before.”
She turned to Marv and he took a step back. Then she brought the coat to her nose and inhaled deeply, closed her eyes. By the time she looked at me again she was smiling. “You are?”
“Adam, ma’am, from next door.”
“Charmed. Beatrice Cyr. Walker-Cyr, I suppose, right, Marv?”
“Damn right.”
“This is a Valentino, Adam. Sable, it’s called.” She enunciated as though I were either six years old or from Honduras. “You can touch it to your face.”
“No, that’s okay, ma’am.”
“Touch it to your face.”
I touched it to my face.
“Soft, isn’t it? Softer than a dream. This coat was ten thousand dollars once. Can you imagine?”
I tried to imagine how a woman with a ten-thousand-dollar coat had a nine-dollar coffee table. When would she wear something like this on Jefferson Street?
There wasn’t so much in the bed of the truck: three more garbage bags of clothes and linens, a suitcase, an old lamp whose dust had survived the trip, two boxes of jewellery, a stuffed bunny with one eye, and a set of books about real estate and sales.
When I was finished unloading I waited in the kitchen. I did not want to go into the living room because everything was quiet and I was worried they might be kissing. The wallpaper had drawings of horses and buggies on it. Marv had found it at an auction in Denver. I had helped paste it up and there were a few bubbles and lines from where I had been hasty. It had been a fun day with Marv. We listened to Led Zep and drank root beer. Whenever I smelled commercial glue I thought of us that day, buzzed on sugar and fumes. A cloud of fruit flies hovered over a bowl of bruised bananas. She had a few cassette tapes: Out of the Cellar by Ratt, W.A.S.P. by W.A.S.P., and Songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn by Gustav Mahler. I peeked inside a faded Converse shoebox and I did not understand what was in it apart from a black leather mask and a silver chain. 
I put the broken lid back on the box. "Ma'am." 
"Are you snooping?" 
She took a step toward me and crossed her bare arms. They had visible muscles and tendons in them. I did not look into her eyes but I could not look at her arms or her chest or her legs either so I looked at the fruit flies and the bananas. 
Marv hobbled in. His shirt was undone and his cheeks were plummy.
"All done?"
"Yes sir." 
Beatrice turned and left us there in the kitchen. Marv watched her go and then he raised his eyebrows at me. "We meet at O'Grady's and next thing you know we got a suite at the Brown Palace." 
"In Denver?" 
"You bet." He fished around in his wallet, which was a wreckage of receipts and scratch tickets and credit cards. 
"But your house is right here." 
"Hotels are for romance, Adam." Marv peeked around the corner. "She's different from other ladies. This one's been all over the world. She's met industrialists, queens, the whole thing."
"What was she doing at O'Grady's?" 
"Tell your mom I'll be there tonight. With my bride." 
Marv did not have kids, and his first marriage had ended like my parents' had ended, with someone running. My dad ran. His wife ran. This is how I imagined the 1970s: people alone in convertibles with pink nylon scarves, crying goodbyes into the wind and driving to Los Angeles.

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Western Alienation Merit Badge, The

Western Alienation Merit Badge, The


Set in Calgary in 1982, during the recession that arrived on the heels of Canada's National Energy Program, The Western Alienation Merit Badge follows the Murray family as they struggle with grief and find themselves on the brink of financial ruin. After the death of her stepmother, Frances "Frankie" Murray returns to Calgary to help her father, Jimmy, and her sister, Bernadette, pay the mortgage on the family home. When Robyn, a long-lost friend, becomes their house guest old tensions are reign …

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Even Weirder Than Before

Even Weirder Than Before

also available: Paperback

Daisy’s job is to be as unobtrusive as possible. But when her father suddenly leaves and her mother breaks down, Daisy’s old life disappears, and she is set free in the rift created between her parents. Susie Taylor’s sharp, quick-witted prose carries Daisy through a family cataclysm, relationships with boys, and her increasingly confusing feelings towards girls, especially Wanda. A refreshingly perceptiv …

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Please Proceed to the Nearest Exit

Please Proceed to the Nearest Exit


In the tradition of Miriam Toews's A Complicated Kindness, Mona Awad's 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, and Marjorie Celona's Y, and set against the shadow of the Vietnam War and the changing social mores of 1970s America, a sharply comic novel that follows the tumultuous coming of age of both a mother and daughter, at a time when womanhood itself was coming of age.
We're all just one bad decision away from disaster. For as long as 14-year-old Robin Fisher can remember, she has lived by her in …

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This will probably come as a surprise to many, but not once in all the time that I knew her did Carol Closter ask me if I believed in God. She simply assumed I did, the way I once assumed that everyone listened to the Carpenters. Which isn't to say that I didn't believe in God, only that I didn't believe in Carol's God. Back then, my God was a sort of Santa Claus, a kindly robed hippie who went around granting good grades and sweet-sixteen convertibles. But, like I said, in the two years that I knew her, Carol Closter never asked and I never offered. If I reached spiritual enlightenment by listening to "We've Only Just Begun" over and over until my mom pleaded with me to please, please, please stop before she threw herself off the roof, well, that was nobody's business but mine. We've only just begun to live / white lace and promises. I'm sure the Bible has some catchy lines, but God's no Karen and Richard. My dad's favourite line: We're all just one bad decision away from disaster. You won't find it in a Carpenters song. That one was pure Jim Fisher.
     "We're all just one bad decision away from disaster." This was the epilogue to every story about another poor sap who'd gotten himself maimed or blinded or worse. Jim Fisher sold insurance, and being a man who didn't know how to talk to children, including his one and only daughter, he spoke to me as he would a client, spouting the facts of life, death, and dismemberment the way other men did baseball scores. Being a girl who didn't know how to talk to men, especially her one and only father, I listened, my tender mind whirring to catalogue these catastrophes under Bad Things That Happen to Other People. I grew up knowing that more toddlers drowned in backyard pools like ours than in the canal that split our town in two. I knew my chances of choking on a hot dog or slipping in the tub. For years, I thought "stop, drop, and roll" was a game all families played. My mom thought this kind of talk would frighten me. I thought his knowledge of the world's secret workings would keep us safe. So I kept my dolls mummified in bubble wrap and cut my hot dogs into bite-sized pieces and waited for my Barbie Dreamhouse life to take shape. 
     By the time I met Carol Closter I'd stopped worrying about the kinds of things you can insure yourself against. I was fourteen years old at the start of 1971, and as far as I could tell each new day was another chance to completely screw up my life in ways my dad couldn't even imagine. What was a little earthquake or electrocution compared to the daily hazards of high school? Anyway, by then the man was living in a pool. He was hardly in a position to be offering advice.
     I used to blame Neil Armstrong. The night he walked on the moon, my family had camped in front of the television like the rest of the country. It was July 1969, and some of us still believed the stars had all the answers. Mom had bitten her Patti nails and wept quietly. She wasn't one of those mothers who cried all the time. When Nixon was sworn into office, girls at school said their mothers had blubbered like babies. Mine had turned off the TV and gone to bed with a headache. My mom was from Canada and Canadians couldn't vote. If my history textbooks were right, Canadians didn't do much of anything. She probably cried on the night of the moon landing because she realized nobody from her country would ever step foot off this planet. My dad, on the other hand, was one hundred per cent American. He sat quietly gripping the arms of his favourite chair as if he was sitting up there in the Lunar Module between Buzz and Neil. When Old Glory was planted in Swiss cheese, Dad stood and saluted the set. "Well, how about that?" he said. "How about that." Then he picked up a throw pillow and took his own earth-bound steps through the sliding doors. He spent the rest of the night outside on a lounge chair, gazing up at Neil's moon. The next night he was there again, wrapped up in an old sleeping bag. By September, he'd claimed the thin mattress of the pool house cot. One small step for man, one giant leap for Jim Fisher.

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Some People's Children

Some People's Children

also available: eBook

Imogene Tubbs has never met her father, and raised by her grandmother, she only sees her mother sporadically. But as she grows older, she learns that many people in her small, rural town believe her father is Cecil Jesso, the local drug dealer—a man both feared and ridiculed. Weaving through a maze of gossip, community, and the complications of family, Some People’s Children is a revealing and liberating novel about the way others look at us and the power of self-discovery.

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