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Boy Swallows Universe, adapted from Trent Dalton’s 2018 best seller, is currently streaming as an eight-part series to much viewer delight and critical acclaim. Set in the 1980s Eli Bell, a working-class youth, enters Brisbane's underworld to save his mother from danger. With this type of plot, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a crime thriller, however at it’s core it’s a tender-hearted coming-of-age story.  

The timeless coming-of-age plot is generally told through the eyes of a young teenage protagonist as they grapple to navigate the adult world around them to their psychological and moral growth into adulthood.  

Boy Swallows Universe is available in the library in DAISY Audio and Braille.

Classic coming-of-age stories in the Vision Australia Library

The perennial favourite To Kill a Mockingbird (available in DAISY Audio and Braille) by Harper Lee (1960) – adapted in 1962 to an equally perennial favourite movie with Gregory Peck embodying father and lawyer Atticus Finch – seen through the eyes of young Scout, captures childhood innocence intermingled with major adult themes. In this novel it is her brother Jem’s journey to adulthood.

While Jo in Little Women (available in DAISY Audio and Braille) by Lousia May Alcott (1868), is the main protagonist she shares her coming-of-age-story with her three sisters.

Since 1917, Little Women has been adapted into seven movies and eight TV series.

With its themes of survival, power and rebellion set in a dystopian future, it’s easy to forget that at its core the Hunger Games (available in DAISY Audio and Braille) series by Suzzane Collins charts Katniss Everdeen’s own personal growth to adulthood. The trilogy was made into four films from 2012 to 2015.

Closer to home, The Getting of Wisdom (available in DAISY Audio) by Henry Handel Richardson (Ethal Richardson) published in 1910 highlights that not much has changed in the societal expectations of young women. It was also made into a movie in the late 1970s.

Breath (available in DAISY Audio and Braille) by Tim Winton (2008) delves into themes of male friendship, adolescence, and the coast.  It was made into a movie in 2017.

Jasper Jones (available in DAISY Audio and Braille) by Craig Silvey (2016) follows bookish teenager Charlie, who becomes tied to outcast Jasper Jones through a terrible secret. Set in 1965 in rural Australia it is a tale of young love, friendship, small-town mentality, race and growing up. It is also delightfully funny and life affirming.

It was made into a movie in 2017.

Do you have a favourite coming-of-age story?

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