Three Coming-of-Age Novels For The Incoming Freshman

The summer between your high school graduation and entrance into college seems like a short period of time, but you do a lot of growing up in those short, hot months. Old friends will cling to those remaining days of freedom and that stasis of normality soon to be broken by the sudden change of environment and responsibility. Some of you may even get teary-eyed the last week as you realize you will not be enjoying mom’s lasagna every Monday night or watching football with dad on Sundays come fall.

Believe it or not, everyone goes through this change and in their own way. You are not alone in your melancholy (or perhaps even joyous) state. Other incoming freshmen go through it, but there are also your fictional counterparts. As you ponder how to spend your remaining time at home, take a little time to read these coming-of-age accounts from literary characters of young and old.

Catch by Will Leitch:

This novel takes place in the small town of Mattoon, Illinois (which is coincidentally an hour away from where I attend college: University of Illinois), and Leitch definitely does a great job of illustrating the bubble effect of such a hometown. The protagonist Tim Temples has everything he could ever want in his sleepy little town. He has a job, admiring friends and fellow citizens and his life is set out in front of him. He sees no point in attending college, but meeting a new girl makes him question his life choices. Those who are still unsure about heading off to a university will find a kindred spirit in the befuddled Tim. Definitely a must-read before move-in.

Paper Towns by John Green:

If there were a patron saint for the coming-of-age novel, it would be John Green. This man is practically a teenager whisperer, and any of his novels would do for this list. For the purpose of accuracy, I chose to feature Paper Towns purely because of how close in age you incoming freshmen will be to the main characters: Q and Margo. Q has been twitterpated (a crush for those of you who have not seen Bambi) with Margo since they were young children. When she appears at his window one night enlisting his help in taking revenge on people who have done her wrong, Q is naturally ecstatic at the chance to be close to her again. Things take a turn for the crazy after that, and I won’t ruin the literary treasure hunt that follows. All you need to know is, this novel showcases John Green at his finest, and it is worth the few extra afternoons spent in the comforts of your bedroom reading it.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

For this last bildungsroman (the proper term for coming-of-age, brownie points if you already knew that from high school English), we take a trip down memory lane to your freshman year of high school. You were either incredibly excited to finally be one of the “big kids” or terrified at the newness of everything. This reaction will be more or less the same for when you enter college. Our introvert narrator “Charlie” has just entered high school and is more than a little apprehensive about his new surroundings due to the recent suicide of his best friend. Sure, the material can take a turn to the dark side every once in a while, Charlie learns to adapt to his new situation through help from two unique siblings and finding himself through various activities such as reading and participating in a local showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. You will chuckle, smile and even cry while reading this book. Don’t let his age fool you, Charlie’s journey to adulthood is one for students of every level.

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Tori Stukins

Tori Stukins

Tori Stukins is a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign pursuing a degree in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Theatre. On campus, Tori can often be found working on various projects for Her Campus Illinois, acting in a production or reading. While at home, she enjoys working at her family’s restaurant or exploring with her friends.