My youngest son, Andy, turns 14 this summer. He has two, older siblings. Natalie is 20 and Ryan is 21. This morning was Andy's 8th-grade graduation breakfast and he was allowed to bring one adult. I just assumed it was me. Yesterday, Ryan calls me up and said that Andy asked if he could take him to the breakfast.
My mom's heart exploded. Not because I was hurt or because I wanted to go, but because there is nothing like your grown-up kids supporting each other. It just feels like all the time you have spent investing in these human beings you have made together, reap big, emotional rewards (sometimes).
Sometimes these boys are a pain in my ass!
Which leads me to my passion for coming-of-age stories. Primarily dark fiction or horror fiction coming-of-age stories. And yes, it's true that most coming-of-age is written by male authors and the stories are about young men, but honestly--because I have sons, I don't care. I love them.
Of course, I remember my own childhood. This is partly why these stories are appealing. The nostalgia and the memories that come flooding back. I wasn't a girly girl in the sense that I pranced around in dresses and played indoors with dollies (although, I did that too). I was outside with the neighborhood kids riding bikes, playing games in the street, double-dog daring one another and climbing trees.
I have scars.
I totally biffed it riding my bike too fast. The street ended and turned into a dirt road so I braked hard to slow down and I skidded out. My knee ground into the sandy, hard dirt. When I stood up and inspected my knee, a flap of skin was holding like a teaspoon of sand like a little pocket. Blood was welling up. I barfed and limped home. My mom had to scrub out the dirt and sand and put an antiseptic on it. But I was TOUGH!! I was back on my bike with a fat Band-Aid!
We also had a creek that ran behind some of the neighborhood houses and we would play Indiana Jones or Tom Sawyer back there. We killed a frog once. We hid from a scary dog up in a tree for hours. I mean, my youth was pretty colorful and I remember it all vividly.
I also lived through it again watching my own children grow up and go through trials that were very similar as well as new trials. Bullies, first crushes, horrible teachers, bad friends, best friends, moving, dances...all the things.
So these books about growing up and doing shitty kid stuff, I love them so hard!
Here are some of my favorites (probably not an exhaustive list, okay so don't get up in my face!)
BOY'S LIFE, Robert McCammon
THE LISTENER, Robert McCammon
CHILDREN OF THE DARK, Jonathan Janz
GHOUL, Brian Keene
DECEMBER PARK, Ronald Malfi
IT, Stephen King
THE BODY, Stephen King
THE LONG WALK, Richard Bachman
THE SATURDAY NIGHT GHOST CLUB, Craig Davidson
CATARACT CITY, Craig Davidson
OF FOSTER HOMES AND FLIES, Chad Lutzke
SKULLFACE BOY, Chad Lutzke
THE SAME DEEP WATER AS YOU, Chad Lutzke
MONGRELS, Stephen Graham Jones
MAPPING THE INTERIOR, Stephen Graham Jones
SUMMER OF NIGHT, Dan Simmons
BAY'S END, Edward Lorn
GWENDY'S BUTTON BOX, Richard Chizmar & Stephen King
DOGS DAYS O' SUMMER, James Newman & Mark Allen Gunnells
PLAGUE OF GULLS, Stephen Gregory
THE DISAPPEARANCE AT DEVIL'S ROCK, Paul Tremblay
I realize there are no female authors or books about girls growing up in that list, but there is a big gap there okay?? I'm talking Horror or Dark Fiction, yeah? Not just any old genre--of that there are plenty.
Here are some that I need to mention:
MY BEST FRIEND'S EXORCISM, Grady Hendrix
KNOCK, KNOCK, S. P. Miskowski
THE WORST IS YET TO COME, S. P. Miskowski
THE BONE WEAVER'S ORCHARD, Sarah Read
THE DEVIL CREPT IN, Ania Ahlborn
THE RUST MAIDENS, Gwendolyn Kiste (but I still need to read this!!)
I have read some killer short stories about girls growing up from Kristi DeMeester and Damien Angelica Walters--so, those are awesome too.
SUGAR AND SPICE AND EVERYTHING NICE, Damien Angelica Walters
THE BEAUTIFUL THING WE WILL BECOME, Kristi DeMeester
So there it is. My obsession for this sub-genre grows stronger and stronger and consider this a nudge to authors that there is a huge space for coming-of-age written by women or about girls growing up. If I missed some, alert me!