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

Petite Mort

Beatrice Hitchman

My Enemy's Cradle

Sara Young

The Song of Achilles

Madeline Miller

When God was a Rabbit

Sarah Winman

The Boat to Redemption

Su Tong

Siege of Mithila

Ashok Banker

The Water-breather

Ben Faccini

A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear

Atiq Rahimi

The Mountain Story

Lori Lansens

Gargling with Tar

Jachym Topol

1914: A Novel

Jean Echenoz

The Looking Glass

Michele Roberts

The Blind Side of the Heart

Julia Franck

Escape Routes for Beginners

Kira Cochrane

Pig Iron

Ben Myers

The Dying Game

Catherine Johnson


A L Barker

Not Before Sundown

Johanna Sinisalo

Girl with a Pearl Earring

Tracy Chevalier

The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals

Wendy Jones

Sixteen Shades of Crazy

Rachel Trezise

Ten Little Indians

Sherman Alexie

Picture Maker

Penina Spinka

Grow Up

Ben Brooks

Gem Squash Tokoloshe

Rachel Zadok


Marcelo Figueras

Dream Machine

Will Davis

Bliss Street

Kris Kenway

Children of Blood and Bone

Tomi Adeyemi

Fierce People

Dirk Wittenborn


Nicholas Mainieri

Paradise Salvage

John Fusco


Chris Hannan

The Wall

John Lanchester

Jack Lives Here

Lynnette Lounsbury


Jon Fosse


Sarah Waters

Invisible River

Helena McEwen

Fortune's Rocks

Anita Shreve


Daren King

The Fall

Simon Mawer

Losing Gemma

Katy Gardner

Disputed Land

Tim Pears

Maps of the Soul

Ahmed Fagih

Zipper Mouth

Laurie Weeks


Lucy Wadham

Me and Mickie James

Drew Gummerson

The Boy Next Door

Irene Sabatini

The Sitar

Rebecca Idris

The Scholar

Courttia Newland