The must-read novels for bringing teens to book ...
Just because some classic books are set to disappear from schools doesn't mean they aren't worthy of attention, says Kate Whiting
Education Secretary Michael Gove probably didn't anticipate the response his suggestions regarding English literature GCSE reading lists would have this week.
But, in this age of social media, it doesn't take much to trigger furore and frenzy, and as £govekillsmockingbird demonstrates – the hashtag doing the rounds on Twitter – it seems many feel very passionately about Gove's alleged move to 'ban' classic American novels like To Kill A Mockingbird from GCSE reading. (What he actually did was call for the reading lists to be broadened – which may, however, result in some schools and exam boards opting to include other books, thereby ditching those much-adored American titles as a result).
But where we would all be without Harper Lee, Judy Blume et al?
Here's our pick of the top coming-of-age novels that every child – and adult – needs to read. And yes, they're from both sides of the pond.
Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee – this book has already been dropped from school reading lists but 100 years since Lee's birth, it's more important than ever that our iPhone-toting teens should read this poetic evocation of life growing up in the idyllic pre-car Gloucestershire village of Slad.
The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time by Mark Haddon – a very modern classic, and now a very successful play, with a film adaptation planned. The book is narrated by autistic 15-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone, whose investigation into a dog's death takes him on an adventure across London and makes him question everything that he thought he knew.
The Catcher In The Rye by JD Salinger – for generations, Holden Caulfield has struck a chord with every existentialist angst-ridden, rebellious teenager. Expelled from school, he heads to New York City and hires a prostitute, but is ultimately stymied by over-thinking everything, a la Hamlet. His very sweet, enduring love for little sister Phoebe keeps him going.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – everyone knows the story even if they're yet to read it. To recap, Pip helps escaped convict Magwitch, goes to play at royally dumped Miss Havisham's house with pouty Estella, then gets a shed-load of money to make him a London gent. But who's his benefactor, can he swallow his pride and will he get the girl?
The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 and 3/4 by Sue Townsend – when Townsend passed away in April, there was an outpouring of love for her and her most famous creation. Mole's diaries capture life in Thatcher-era Britain from the perspective of a spotty, wannabe poet living in a dysfunctional working-class family in the Midlands.
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume – first bra? Tick. First period? Tick. First kiss? Tick. Mixed faith angst? Tick. Margaret's musings to God are a must-read for every hormonal girl, whether remotely religious or not.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – from the confines of her miserable childhood in Gateshead Hall to marrying her Mr Right, the gloomy, would-be-polygamous Edward Rochester, at Thornfield, Jane manages to stay incredibly upbeat as she grows into a woman. Along the way she learns from virtuous school friend Helen how to turn the other cheek.
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – the poster-book for the anti-Gove movement is all about racial injustice in the Great Depression-era Deep South. Young Scout Finch narrates the tale of her lawyer father Atticus' bravery in defending a black man accused of raping a white girl.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – poet Plath's only novel is a semi-autobiographical account of the protagonist Esther's descent into mental illness, suicide attempt and gradual recovery. Just a month after its publication in the UK, Sylvia Plath took her own life.
On The Road by Jack Kerouac – a staple of the Beat movement, Kerouac's semi-autobiographical account of road trips across the States is written in urgent, flowing prose, making it read like pure non-conformist escapism.