The following books serve as a guide to defining my version of the “coming-of-age” genre. What they have in common is that, in one way or another, they have all resonated with me at some point in the past six months. They are listed in as chronological an order as I could possibly create.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
by J.K. Rowling
As a lifelong fan of Harry Potter, I reread the series every few years. That being said, the fifth instalment has never been high on my list—yet this summer, I found myself getting emotional over its pages. OOTP is the turning point in the series, when the story officially gets darker and Harry, having been through horrible experiences, is singled out and ostracized for sticking to the truth. When I first read this book, I was fourteen or fifteen – the perfect age to develop a crush on the new, hardened Harry, who raged at the world for all his misfortune. This time, I read the book with an adult’s perspective, shaken by Harry’s situation and the oppression he faced. Maybe it was my own life experiences that shaped my newfound understanding and sympathy, or maybe it was my knowledge about the “hero’s journey” and the Jungian archetypes that many of the characters filled. All I know is that this time, I somehow got it. And when Harry had that fateful meeting with Dumbledore in his office, I too understood the difference between being forced into facing our adversaries versus doing so head on and gracefully.
Favourite Quote: “Don’t worry. You’re just as sane I am.”
by Rainbow Rowell
I read this novel at the precipice of my fourth year, believing it to be the last year of my life where I can happily remain in that hazy area between my comfort zone and (that oh-so foreign concept) adulthood. Needless to say I was feeling nostalgic, preferring to look upon my years here at McMaster with rose-tinted glasses than to face the colder and infinitely harder future. Fangirl took my hippie glasses off, and reminded me of first year, the last time that future was as frightening and mysterious as it appears now. While reading, I found myself in Cather, the protagonist, remembered how debilitating shyness can be, how difficult it is to be estranged from the ones you love, how hard it is to move on from someone so familiar to you. But she also reminded me of how it felt to find my niche, how the most wonderful relationships can be woven out of our greatest mistakes, and finally, how comforting our favourite habits can be.
Favourite Quote: “Real life was something happening in her peripheral vision.”
Anne of the Island
by L.M. Montgomery
This is Anne of Green Gables, all grown up. There was a time when my expectations for the future were clearly outlined in my copy of this worn out, blue book. I would read and reread it in an effort to get even one page closer to my own happy ending. I did not just see myself in Anne – there was a part of me that was (and probably still is) her. I remember learning from Anne’s teacher Miss Stacy that by the time I was twenty, I would have my life figured out. And I remember sitting in my room with this book, the day after my birthday almost a year ago, flipping to the scene where I could share my confusion with Anne, relieved that neither of us had any clue what was going on, even after having reached the age of twenty. This time when I read the story, I finally realized that Anne’s life isn’t nearly as idyllic as I had once assumed—except that this just meant that I had even more in common with her than I had originally thought.
Favourite Quote: “I do know my own mind…The trouble is, my mind changes and then I have to get acquainted with it all over again.”
Perfect Fifths: A Jessica Darling Novel
by Megan McCafferty
I began reading the Jessica Darling series
when I was in grade 12, and unceremoniously stopped reading halfway through the series after graduating high school. I recently picked them up again, and finally finished the series, going from the first to the fifth (listed here) in the span of a month. Perfect Fifths is, in a word, perfect. This novel features a mature Jessica Darling; she’s graduated university, has a job, and she’s started to figure things out. I cannot yet envision a time when I will be at a more secure place in my life, and Jessica’s adventures prior to this final novel always served to assure me that no one really does. This book was quieter; there are only three settings; the rest of the story is taken up by either conversation or memory. As I was reading, I was reminded of the importance of things left unsaid, of those people with whom we form everlasting and unmistakeable connections and of the security we can find in knowing that the future is so uncertain.
Favourite Quote: “Excuse our appearances. We are taking apart yesterday, to make way for tomorrow.”
“The tales we tell ourselves about ourselves make us who we are.”
“Tongue your mind.”