To Be Young!
The literary genre of bildungsroman, or coming-of-age story, has a rich tradition. The young character, learning about the world and themselves, gives the author a perfect vehicle to explore themes and comment on the world and its values.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – A towering epic of a story told from a viewpoint of an 8-year-old. Set in the small Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the Depression, the novel tells about three years in the life of the narrator Scout Finch, her brother, Jem, and their widowed lawyer father. In the small and simple world of childhood adventures, Scout innocently thrives, but soon the ugly face of racism, hate and injustice seep in. Through the strength of character that Scout sees in her father Atticus, and the love that she finds among her family and friends, she comes to understand what her father means when he tells her “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd – A 14-year-old girl haunted by the memory of accidentally killing her mother, Lily Owens and her father live an uneasy existence on their South Carolina peach farm in the early 1960s. When their black housekeeper Rosaleen gets beaten trying to register to vote, Lily decides it’s time to find out what her mother’s strange possession of a image of a Black Madonna, with the words “Tiburon, South Carolina” scrawled on the back means, and takes Rosaleen with her. Lily’s quest leads her to the Boatwright sisters. The sisters take in the two in, and slowly it is revealed the connection with Lily’s mother. The power of female friendship and love help Lily heal and find her own strength.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – In this most adult-like young adult novel, two teenagers with terminal cancer find each other, find love and find the essence of life in a funny, dark and moving story. Hazel Grace Lancaster, 16, goes to a cancer support group and meets Augustus Waters. Both become fascinated with a novel about cancer called An Imperial Affliction. In attempt to answer the questions left by the ambiguous ending, Augustus arranges for the pair to travel to Amsterdam, where Imperial’s author, an expatriate American, lives. The journey there and its aftereffects shade the their budding romance and their inevitable outcome. Realistically heart-rendering without becoming oversentimental, the novel resonates long after being read.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith – Francie Nolan is a young, intelligent girl growing up poor in early twentieth century Brooklyn. Her father, a romantic dreamer, fills her head with fanciful thoughts and her heart with love and hope. Her mother, forced to shoulder the lion-share of family responsibilities, seems hardhearted and to favor Francie’s younger brother. But as Francie becomes more aware of the circumstances of life, her perceptions and ideas shift. As she blossoms into young womanhood, she becomes as resilient as the Tree of Heaven growing in the courtyard.
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman – 12-year-old Cecelia Rose Honeycutt’s life is no picnic: her mother, Camille, has severe mental illness and CeeCee has to cope alone, since her travelling salesman father Carl is often absent. When her mother is struck and killed by an ice cream truck, CeeCee starts living with her great-aunt Tootie and her wise African American housekeeper and cook, Oletta. CeeCee finds the womanly supports she needs in her new circle of somewhat eclectic women friends in Savannah.
Helen Freeman is the Technical Services librarian.