7 Inspiring Coming-of-Age Novels To Read This Spring

Spring and coming-of-age novels have plenty in common. To honor the start of spring, pick up one of these inspiring tales of fresh starts and unexpected do-overs.

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Themes of new beginnings, tough transitions, and life-changing decisions are characteristic to both spring and coming-of-age stories. Like the transition from snow to sunshine, adolescence is as tedious and messy as it is joyful. Navigating new emotions, responsibilities, and situations while staying true to oneself can be hard, but these books remind us that coming-of-age journies have the potential to be beautiful.

The sun is shining and flowers are blooming: it’s time to set aside your winter coats and studious epic novels. In honor of the start of spring, pick up one of these 7 tales of fresh starts and unexpected do-overs.

1. The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

Cal, the protagonist of the coming-of-age novel "The Gravity of Us," is pictured beside his boyfriend Leon.

At the age of 17, Cal is a successful social media influencer responsible with getting over half a million young adult followers interested in politics. Though he’s used to sharing his life online, Cal’s whole family is thrown into the spotlight when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars. Suddenly relocated from Brooklyn to Houston, Cal has to start all over. Amidst the chaos, Cal meets Leon, the son of another astronaut, and soon finds himself falling in love.

When secrets about the program are uncovered and Cal uses his fame to put things right, his relationship with Leon is caught in the crossfire. Cal and Leon’s relationship is adorable, heartwarming, and relatable, and perfectly encapsulates the thrill and trials of first love.

2. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Xiomara Batista navigates the world of growing up as she finds her voice through slam poetry.

At 15-going-on-16, Xiomara Batista has plenty she wants to say. While her curvy body attracts plenty of unwanted attention in her Harlem neighborhood, Xiomara’s words go unheard. Sexism isn’t her only problem: her devout Christian Dominican mother wants Xiomara to conform to a church she may not believe in, and Xiomara is slowly catching feelings for a boy named Aman who her parents would never approve of. Overwhelmed, Xiomara pours her passion and frustrations into free-verse poetry.

When she’s invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, Xiomara decides to accept, hoping her mami never finds out. Told part in prose and part in poetry, The Poet X is a coming-of-age story that deals with endless important topics, from confronting sexism to questioning one’s faith to coping with complex family life. Xiomara’s confidence grows as she performs her poetry, illustrating the power of a young girl who refuses to be silent.

3. I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

Ben De Backer, a nonbinary senior in high school, worries about starting fresh at a new school, but finds support in friends and family.

When high school senior Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to find refuge with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they try to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed at their new school. His attempts are thwarted when Nathan Allan—Ben’s funny, charismatic, and extremely cute classmate—decides to take Ben under his wing.

As Ben and Nathan grow closer together, what started as a disastrous event starts to look like a chance at a happier life. I Wish You all the Best is a beautiful, moving book about everyone’s right and need to be happy and surrounded by love. Ben’s story reminds readers that you can’t tackle all your problems alone and is a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.

4. One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

Starting fresh in New York, August is cynical about everything. When she spies Jane on the Q Train, everything starts to change.

Twenty-three-year-old August moves to New York City to confirm her cynical expectations that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist. With her daily subway commute, boring job waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner, and weird many roommates, August can’t imagine anything could ever change her mind. Until she sees Jane, a gorgeous mystery girl dressed like a punk rock lesbian from the 70s, on the Q train. August already knows her subway crush is out of her league, but soon she discovers that Jane is literally lost in time.

Determined to free Jane from the prison of time and space that is the Q train, August starts believing there’s still a little magic left in the world. One Last Stop is a novel about finding yourself in a new city after being cut loose from college, holding on to hope, and finding magic and romance in the most mundane places.

5. The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan

Rukhsana Ali struggles to balance her lesbian identity with her Muslim culture in this coming-of-age novel set in Bangladesh.

Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali, a Muslim Bangladeshi lesbian, is being torn apart. Though she tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, she dreams more and more about escaping to a far-off college with her girlfriend Ariana. When her parents catch her kissing Ariana, they immediately ship Rukhsana off to Bangladesh and the world of arranged marriage and tradition.

Struggling to fight for her love without losing her family, Rukhsana must find the balance between two very different cultures. The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali tackle staying true to one’s identity in the face of close-mindedness, homophobia, religion, and tradition.

6. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

The classic college coming-of-age novel, "Fangirl," follows Cath, the biggest introvert alive.

Cath is an introvert. Preferring to spend her time continuing to write her wildly successful fanfiction series or hanging out with her twin sister, Wren, Cath has a small comfort zone. But as they head off to college, Wren tells Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cast adrift in a whole new world, Cath must ask herself, Where do I go from here? And, How do I do this alone?

Forced to start living on her own, Cath must open herself to new friendships and experiences, which might just include Levi, a happy-go-lucky classmate who wants to study with Cath. As she grows closer to Levi and begins feeling more confident in her independence, Cath realizes college might not be so bad. Endearing, witty, awkward, and creative, Fangirl tackles the all-too-relatable uncertainty and struggle of finding oneself in college.

7. What the Firefies Knew by Kai Harris

KB dances among the fireflies in Lansing, Michigan. Starting fresh with her estranged grandpa is scary, but maybe it can lead to something beautiful.

Following her father’s overdose, almost eleven-year-old Kenyatta Bernice (KB) and her sister, Nia, are sent by their withering mother to live with their estranged grandfather in Lansing, Michigan for the summer. Confused and eager to go home, KB attempts to find her bearings in a whole new world. The magical world of childhood shatters and a rocky adolescence caused by the realities of KB’s background, skin color, and family history begins, leaving KB to discover that a new life can be built from the shards. KB’s magical world of childhood is crumbling around her.

What the Fireflies Knew follows KB’s first experiences with deep loneliness, angst, loss, and above all, hope. KB’s coming-of-age story captures the pain of losing childhood innocence and the turbulent time of adolescence as a young Black girl grows to understand the world around her.

Inspiring, hopeful, and poignant, these coming-of-age stories are the perfect companion for balmy spring weather. Maybe even grab an ice tea, a blanket, and take your book to the park! It’s going to be a beautiful day.

For more coming-of-age book recommendations, click here.