Brilliant books about young people

A book with a young main character opens a window onto the life of a child, an adolescent or young adult on the start of their journey. We might be looking to make comparisons with our own growing up, a rite of passage we remember from our time at school, at college or in a first job. Or, alternatively we could be searching for a coming-of age-story set in a different country, culture or time to the one we know intimately ourselves. All are here – in all their joy and their pain.

These writers can make the voice of a child convincing and remind you of what childhood felt like from the inside.  A juvenile narrator, perhaps a teenager or in their early twenties, may be unpractised and inexperienced, but can see things sharply that older folk may have flattened out.  There is often a rawness to the experience of growing up, an honesty – and maybe that’s where the appeal of these books with youthful protagonists lies.

Search books by Character & Plot

Once Again Assembled Here

Sean O'Brien

Swing Time

Zadie Smith

The Fourth Queen

Debbie Taylor

Ella Minnow Pea

Mark Dunn

School of Velocity

Eric Beck Rubin


Richard Mason

Conditions of Faith

Alex Miller

The Idiot

Elif Batuman


Michael Mail

Paradise Jazz

Kat Pomfret


Javier Cercas

Glory Goes and Gets Some

Emily Carter


Tupelo Hassman

Walking Wounded

Sheila Llewellyn

Lullabies for Little Criminals

Heather O'Neill

Mr Schnitzel

Stephen Knight

After Such Kindness

Gaynor Arnold

Gold Dust

Ibrahim al-Koni

The Floating Island

Anna Ralph

Invisible River

Helena McEwen

Portrait in Sepia

Isabel Allende

Forever and Ever Amen

Joe Pemberton

Running Rings

John McLaren

Tell the Wolves I'm Home

Carol Rifka Brunt

I Do Not Come to You By Chance

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam

Lauren Liebenberg

All Our Names

Dinaw Mengestu

Graffiti My Soul

Niven Govinden

The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart

Mathias Malzieu

Kimberley's Capital Punishment

Richard Milward

The Girls from Corona Del Mar

Rufi Thorpe

White Ghost Girls

Alice Greenway

Fine Boys

Eghosa Imasuen

Amande's Bed

John Aberdein

The Last Queen

C W Gortner

The Scent of your Breath

Melissa P

Disputed Land

Tim Pears


Naomi Novik

Lizard Tails

Juan Marse

The Anatomy of Wings

Karen Foxlee

The Story of a Brief Marriage

Anuk Arudpragasam

The Anatomy School

Bernard MacLaverty

The Dirty South

Alex Wheatle

Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars

Miranda Emmerson

Nowhere People

Paulo Scott

Seventh Gate

Richard Zimler

Seldom Seen

Sarah Ridgard

A Blessed Child

Linn Ullmann

Dogside Story

Patricia Grace

Looking Through Letterboxes

Caroline Bird