Why Coming-of-Age Books Are Important to Read
Jen Petro-Joy | The Children’s Book Review | April 26, 2018
We all grow up. As much as Peter Pan tried to push away that inevitable truth, “The Boy Who Never Grew Up” may have eventually aged, too. After all, we don’t know what happened after we turned the last page of that fairy tale. We don’t know whether Peter one day got in a huge fight with his Lost Boys. We don’t know whether he rebelled, joined up with Smee, and formed his own band of evil pirates. Maybe Peter ended up in therapy for his treatment of all those female characters.
We don’t know what happened.
But Peter Pan aside, everyone grows up. And whether we have issues with our fairyland comrades, with our overbearing parents, with our friends, or with our mental or physical health, something will come along to shake up the status quo. Something will happen to change our relationships and how we react with the world. And when that “thing” does happen, we need to know we’re not alone.
That’s where books come in. Of course, it’s wonderful if you have parents or guardians or trusted adults you can turn to for reassurance that this process of growing up is completely normal. It can be comforting to have close friends who can tell you that you’re not the only one with acne. You’re not the only one whose parents are divorcing. You’re not the only one who struggles with depression or anxiety. You’re not the only girl who likes girls.
In my debut novel, P.S. I Miss You, my protagonist Evie is struggling with a lot. Her older sister got pregnant in high school and left home in the face of disapproval from their religious parents. Evie starts to question her own faith and she has her first crush on a girl. There’s a lot going on for Evie…and this abundance of “stuff” isn’t abnormal at all for a twelve-year-old.
Middle schoolers aren’t just toddlers with a few more inches on them. They’re not mini adults, either. Kids in middle school are unique beings, caught in that utterly amazing and uncomfortable space between carefree childhood and responsibility-laden adulthood. They’re starting to question their beliefs and their place in the world. They’re developing and refining their personalities and pushing back against their parents. They’re figuring out where they stand in their peer groups.
And often, even with people all around them, they feel utterly alone.
That’s why books are so important. In books, readers can find people just like them. They can see how others navigated struggles and solved problems. They can brainstorm what might work for them and what might be a bad idea altogether. They can see that growing up may be hard—that it may seem almost intolerable at times—but that they can get through it. It might be messy and the process might not be wrapped up in a pretty bow with a perfectly crafted ending—but growing up without falling apart is possible.
That they can do it, too.
Written by Jen Petro-Joy
Publisher’s Synopsis: A heartbreaking―yet ultimately uplifting―epistolary novel about family, religion, and having the courage to be yourself.
Evie is heartbroken when her strict Catholic parents send her pregnant sister, Cilla, away to stay with a distant great-aunt. All Evie wants is for her older sister to come back. Forbidden from speaking to Cilla, Evie secretly sends her letters.
Evie writes about her family, torn apart and hurting. She writes about her life, empty without Cilla. And she writes about the new girl in school, June, who becomes her friend, and then maybe more than a friend.
Evie could really use some advice from Cilla. But Cilla isn’t writing back, and it’s time for Evie to take matters into her own hands.
P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy is a heartfelt middle grade novel dealing with faith, identity, and finding your way in difficult times.
Ages 9-12 | Publisher: Feiwel & Friends | 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1250123480
About the Author
Jen Petro-Roy is a former teen librarian, an obsessive reader, and a trivia fanatic. She lives with her husband and two young daughters in Massachusetts. P.S. I Miss You is her debut novel.
The article Why Coming-of-Age Books Are Important to Read was written by Jen Petro-Roy, author of P.S. I Miss You. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Coming Of Age, LGBTQ Books, and Middle Grade Books.