Monday, June 23, 2014

Bildungsroman: A Coming-of-Age Booklist

8:00 AM

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Whether you’re twelve or twenty-one, you’ve still got some growing up to do. That is why coming of age literature is one of the most commonly sought after books. These books are the special kind. The kind that comes to us at the exact time we need a voice telling us “you are not alone”. These books echo our experiences, and give us a sense of comfort that things can work out, even if we’re going through that awkward and uncertain age right now.

“Coming of age” is a subject commonly tackled in literature. With characters ranging from the likes of Huck Finn to Holden Caulfield, “coming of age” literature will surely be forever evolving. This sub genre is a huge reason why young adult fiction is so popular, to young and old. Anyone can connect to a good coming of age story, because, at some point in our life, we have gone through the same thing. The experiences we each go through may be different, but the turmoil of having to grow up is universal.

Tell The Wolves I’m Home
By Carol Rifka Brunt

Maybe I was destined to forever fall in love with people I couldn’t have. Maybe there’s a whole assortment of impossible people waiting for me to find them.
Waiting to make me feel the same impossibility over and over again.”

This gem is for the kid who has that one secret, the kind that no one will ever understand, because you can’t quite understand it yourself. The novel takes place during a time when being “HIV Positive” had yet to be fully understood; as our narrator June Elbus struggles to find answers regarding the death of her uncle. Throw in the last portrait her uncle had ever painted, a jealous older sister (who is practically June’s worst enemy) and a mysterious stranger who shows up at her uncle’s funeral, it’s not so hard to see why June’s life has taken a turn for the worse. This novel is for those who can’t seem to find anyone to turn to, for those who still struggle to find “home”.

The Outsiders
By SE Hinton

It seemed funny that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two worlds we lived in weren’t so different.
We saw the same sunset.”

If you’ve ever read the line “stay gold” on someone’s internet bio or on some Tumblr photo, then you’ve just found the book they got it from. One lesser known fact about this novel is that SE Hinton was 15 when she started writing it. So who better to understand teenagers than one herself? The Outsiders centers on Ponyboy, a greaser (think “The T-Birds” from Grease or basically the entire West Side Story)—and proud of it. But, his life takes a dramatic turn when his friend Johnny accidentally murders a soc (typical “preppy rich boy”). Forced to go on the run, Ponyboy starts to rethink what it means to be on somebody’s side and how greasers and socs may not be so different after all. The characters in this novel are absolutely lovable. Reading this novel makes you feel like you’re part of the gang (in some strange way) and identifying yourself with these boys isn’t as hard as one might think.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story
By Ned Vizzini

"Things to do today:
1) Breathe in.
2) Breathe out."

The novel was inspired by author Ned Vizzini’s own battle against depression, specifically during his brief hospitalization period in 2004. After being overwhelmed by the pressures of being a teenager (academics, girls, you name it), Craig turns to 1-800-SUICIDE to solve his problems. This only leads to him being admitted into a psychiatric hospital, where he meets and fosters bonds with his fellow patients. An interesting aspect of this novel is how Vizzini manages to mix light humor with heavy issues of teenage angst and depression. This book is for those who have ever felt it would be easier to just quit. Though, the novel’s themes of accepting oneself and overcoming peer pressure can surely strike a chord within each of us.

by Joe Dunthorne
“I took a photo of us, mid-embrace.
When I am old and alone I will remember that I once held something truly beautiful.”
This book is especially enjoyable for those who love Wes Anderson’s dry humor. Our narrator, Oliver Tate, is a bit more neurotic than most. Trying to discover why his mom and dad are fighting, trying to get a girlfriend, and trying to understand the world around him is what he does throughout the novel, in his own quirky yet vulgar way. As Oliver bumbles through being fifteen with his blunt and awkward self, readers will simply not be able to resist laughing alongside (or at) him. Our narrator is the kind of person who you’d absolutely hate if you met, but absolutely love reading about. If you’ve ever felt like you were trying too hard, or not trying hard enough, then Oliver is definitely someone you can relate with. And, an added bonus, the film based on the novel (directed by Richard Ayoade of IT Crowd fame) has a killer soundtrack all written and performed by Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys. What’s not to love?

Norwegian Wood
By Haruki Murakami
But who can say what's best? That's why you need to grab whatever chance you have of happiness where you find it, and not worry about other people too much. My experience tells me that we get no more than two or three such chances in a life time, and if we let them go, we regret it for the rest of our lives.”
In my humble opinion, Haruki Murakami is one of the greatest authors of this modern day and age. Norwegian Wood is a little different from all his other novels (which are usually filled with magic realism), but this is one of my favorites by him. Told from the point of view of Toru Watanabe, a man looking back at his college days, where in he fell for two very different women – the happy go lucky Midori, and the fragile Naoko, tormented by the death of her boyfriend, who just happens to be Toru’s best friend. Murakami’s story telling is like no other. With clear and beautiful imagery of Tokyo and lines so powerful that you’ll find yourself rereading paragraphs over and over again, it is so easy to love Norwegian Wood. Toru’s story and his reflections on life, love and loss make this novel something else entirely.

In my own personal experience, I have found that there is always something new to take away from rereading any book, especially from “coming of age” literature. Since I’ve still got a whole lot of growing up to do myself, reading and rereading these types of books always helps me look back at my own life and give me a better understanding of the world around me. They say that “literature reflects life”, and I think that the best kinds of books are those that you feel a sense of familiarity with. So whether it’s Judy Blume or John Green, I hope you find the book that makes you feel a little less strange and that most importantly, you enjoy yourself while reading.

Recommended Coming Of Age films (to go with the books!): The Way Way Back (2013), Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995), Harold and Maude (1971), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Article by Katrina
Art by Bea

Katrina Pimintel's biggest life goals include becoming a mermaid, and finding out how many cupcakes she can eat without gaining weight. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram at @kkotrono

Bea(conyo nickname: Bea Ven) and Leonardo Da Vinci have one thing in common: they are both master procrastinators. Bea has a terribly long list of awesome art projects she’s been planning to do for a while but has sadly only managed to cross out less than half of it. Bea draws most of her inspiration from the olden times and sustains herself by fawning over famous people who nobody her age (and sometimes even her parents) have ever heard about.  Her favorite cities include New York and Tokyo and she wants to be 50% Peggy Olson and 50% Lena Dunham when she grows up, pretty please.


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