16 of the Best Coming-of-Age Books Like Little Women
Since its publication in 1868, Little Women, Louisa May Alcott's saga about four sisters growing up in the Civil War-era Massachusetts, has not gone out of print. Like all of the best coming-of-age novels, Little Women can be revisited at different points in life for a wholly different reading experience—and is now getting yet another big-screen adaptation, which hits theaters December 25.
The books on this list have the same magic quality as Alcott's work. They may focus on teenagers, but they'll resonate with adults. Some books, like Elena Ferrante's four-novel saga, track the growing up process in detail. Others, like Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss, zoom in on the formative period of kids on the cusp of awful, eye-opening realizations that will activate adulthood.
From classics like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn to hidden gems like David Mitchell's Black Swan Green, these coming-of-age novels will take you way, way back.
1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Francie Nolan and her brother, Neely, grow up in the slums of Williamsburg, Brooklyn at the turn of the century. Despite being surrounded by hardship (like her family's financial difficulties and her father's alcoholism), Francie forges moments of triumph and warmth. Betty Smith's semi-autobiographical saga always tops coming-of-age book lists for a reason: It's one of the all-time greats. In fact, reading the poignant tale of Francie Nolan and her youth in Brooklyn is often a formative moment in readers' personal lives. Shop Now
2. How the García Girls Lost Their Accents
Imagine the four March sisters of Little Women as the four García girls fleeing the Dominican Republic for New York in 1960, and you've got How the García Girls Lost Their Accent. When their father becomes an enemy of the state, Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofía García are forced to NYC—and so begins a constant push and pull between their old, familiar culture, and the intoxicating flashiness of their new surroundings. Shop Now
3. Purple Hibiscus: A Novel
From the outside, 15-year-old Kambili Achike seems lucky. She's one of the most privileged teenagers in her Nigerian town—but step into the Achikes' sprawling house, and you might feel crushed by the stifling atmosphere created by her tyrannical father. In her first novel, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie captures the disintegration of a family, and one girl's attempt to hold onto herself as everything falls apart. Shop Now
4. I Capture the Castle: Young Adult Edition
Two important things happen at the start of I Capture the Castle: 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain gets a journal, and two handsome American brothers arrive to her sleepy British town. Written in Cassandra's charismatic voice, the diary entries illustrate her dreams, the decaying castle her eccentric family calls home, and her and her sister's romantic pursuits. I Capture the Castle will steep you in the whimsy, the struggle, and the ache of the teenage years. You'll revisit this capsule of youth again and again. Shop Now
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