Classic Coming of Age Stories - Boys Edition
Our last post highlighted coming of age stories featuring female protagonists. Now it's the boys' turn.
Survival stories are enduringly popular, and Gary Paulsen's Newbery honor winning Hatchet is one of my favorites. Brian, a boy in his early teens, is the sole survivor a plane crash in the Canadian wilderness. With only the clothes on his back and his hatchet, he figures out how to make fire, find food, and construct a shelter for himself. He learns by trial and error and makes a lot of mistakes along the way - but he survives. Hatchet is a fine, modern successor to books in the tradition of Swiss Family Robinson and Robinson Crusoe.
In Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, the government determines that Ender Wiggin, age six, has an unusually high potential to become a military commander. He is taken from his family to the Battle School orbiting Earth, where he is the youngest among those being trained to fight alien forces that threaten the home planet. Years go by, during which Ender struggles with his fellow students, his teachers, the skills he must master, and his doubts about the war and the enemy he is asked to fight. Among other honors, Ender's Game was awarded both the Hugo and the Nebula Awards.
Sue Townsend's Adrian Mole books are wonderfully funny for readers, not so much for the title character himself. The story stretches from Adrian's early teens well into his middle age. His family seems to become more dysfunctional by the day. He suffers the pangs of unrequited love, is victimized by the school bully, has run-ins with surly dogs and uncooperative senior citizens, endures poverty and hypochondria...and that's just in the first book. Like Brian and Ender, he make his share of mistakes, and he learns to do better. Well, sometimes.
A few more well-loved books about coming of age while male are listed below.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Native Son by Richard Wright
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky