Portland Center Stage's production of The Chosen opens this weekend—the play is based on Chaim Potok's novel of the same name, about two Jewish boys coming of age in 1940s Brooklyn. Over on PCS' website, Powell's employee Christopher Johnson has curated a list of some other coming-of-age novels (or bildungsroman, for you fancy talkers—one of those words I've never had the nerve to say out loud). All of this is of interest to you because now I'm going to do a contest giveaway where you tell me in the comments what your favorite coming-of-age novel is and why, and I pick a comment that I like, and give the winner a pair of tickets to The Chosen as well as their choice of books from the Powell's list. (I recommend Black Swan Green—a great place to start if you've never read David Mitchell.) Okay? Okay. I'll start you off with a couple of my favorites.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith: I recently reread this book and was surprised and impressed by how well it holds up. If you can handle the nearly 200 pages of setbuilding before the story kicks in (and you should, because Smith recalls early 20th century Brooklyn with incredible detail and texture), and if you're not too put off by sentimentality (stock characters include the drunk-dad-who-likes-to-sing and the whorey-aunt-with-a-heart-of-gold), it's a really affecting read.
The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis: Martin Amis' first novel, about a young man and his girlfriend, is crude and adolescent and very fun to read.
Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld: I read this by a pool in Southern California, a coastal counterpoint to the East Coast boarding school where the novel is set. The protagonist, Lee, is a scholarship student from the Midwest, out of her league in an affluent Massachusetts boarding school—the book follows her from freshman year to graduation. It's been a while since I've read it, but I remember being really impressed by the protagonist's voice, which was perceptive and relatable without being cloying or too precocious.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Obvs.
I think I could keep at this all day, but I'll turn it over to you guys. Go check out the Powell's list if you need some inspiration. I'll pick a winner by 3 pm tomorrow.
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