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From boys to men: Growing, or not, into young adulthood

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Sometimes we are thrust into adulthood, sometimes we merge into it and become absorbed by it. Within those often bewildering years we have experiences which can shape our whole lives and contribute to the type of person we will become. How we react in these years, with all of the changes that occur and the questions we have, will define us as young adults and help us come of age. As with all important literary genres there is a wealth of literature out there to assist us, to guide us, to reassure us. Collected here are three books which elucidate those years, and describe how to deal with tumultuous events, seek answers to questions and grow as a young adult. 


Jesse is a teenager on a school visit to New York as part of a UN programme when the subway train he's on is rocked by an explosion. An hour later he crawls out along with three of his friends, Mini, Dave and Anna. A scene of devastation greets them when they reach the streets: New York is crumbling and its inhabitants have seemingly all been infected by an unquenchable thirst. These horrifying 'Chasers' feed on human blood, but also from the rivers around Manhattan and from the snowy slush accumulating on the ground. Choosing the GE building as a place of refuge the four teens have a 360 degree view of a post-apocalyptic world in which they are surrounded.  Seventy floors above the nightmare they wonder: Who did this? What has happened to the people of New York? These are questions they cannot find answers to. What they do know is they need to get out of the city. However, down below is chaotic and dangerous. 

'Chasers' is a fast-paced page-turner, detailing the lives of four intrepid teens faced with challenges of suddenly being left to fend for themselves in a desperate situation. It is the first instalment in the 'Alone' series written by James Phelan, and upon finishing it you will immediately be compelled to begin the second. 

When the Snow Fell

The Swedish novelist Henning Mankell is famous for his novels involving the fictional character Kurt Wallander. But he turned his prodigious hand to YA literature on a number of occasions. 'When the Snow Fell' follows Joel Gustafson, a teenager grappling with the thoughts of growing into adulthood. Joel decides to make three New Year's resolutions: 1) he wants to toughen up so as to live until he is 100; 2) he wants to see the sea; 3) he wants to see a naked woman. Along with the majority of male teenagers Joel is fascinated and awed by girls, but is shy and awkward and cannot find the right words when he needs them. His father is a drinker and becomes almost uncontrollable when he is dumped by his girlfriend, Sara. Joel feels compelled to help his father and this increased sense of responsibility drives him to try and raise enough money so they can move closer to the coast. Life is becoming more complicated but Joel doesn't harden; he retains the sensitivities of childhood. Certainly, the late Mankell drew upon his personal life growing up in Sweden when he derived Joel. His mother left when he was a young child and he lived with his father. Also, the snow and cold weather play a seminal role in the novel. 'When the Snow Fell' is a touching coming-of-age novel about a boy growing into his late teens, struggling under the weight of his father. 

Ross O'Carroll-Kelly: The Teenage Dirtbag Years

Ross O'Carroll Kelly is solipsistic, egotistic, vain, ignorant, obnoxious, crude and rude, and seems to revel in his own vulgarity. Set in Dublin at the turn of the century, Ireland is experiencing an economic boom unlike any in its short history. Ross is beginning his first year in college. Among his friends are delightfully rude people from the affluent southside of Dublin city who eagerly await the first Starbucks rumoured to be soon opening up. Ross, a truly desperate individual, cares for three things: beer, birds (girls) and more birds. 

'The Teenage Dirtbag Years' is possibly the most anti-coming of age book around. It is a story about how not to grow into adulthood, and it is important for this reason. But is also a story about Ireland shedding its parochial image and Dublin maturing into a cosmopolitan city whose young people are heavily influenced by the consumer culture they're greedily swallowing up en masse. It is an hilarious satire about the affluent class and its young people. 

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