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Coming of Age Novels in 1990s Society

It’s not so much true today (I think our society, in a lot of ways, has come to accept that mores have changed), but in the 1990s it was fashionable for hard-ass social commentators to rag on us about how the current generations have had the longest post-adolescence in history. The prigs wanted us to put away childish things, stop wearing band T-shirts and force-fit ourselves into an adulthood rife with bust-your-hump jobs and rod-cracking parenting. Somehow, most of us couldn’t get with it and it mystified the old guard that so many of us could be so wistful for our salad days, where we made so many stupid mistakes. 

A by-product of our blessed post-adolescence has been the rise of coming of age television shows, movies and books, where teens negotiate the harrowing transition from adolescence to adulthood. Shopping in Barnes & Noble, I’ve noticed people who are clearly over 30 sidling up to the Young Adult section’s shelves and, 10 minutes later, devouring its spoils on the floor of the far-off Finance section. On the flipside, when I was a teenager, we gobbled up Vonnegut, Kerouac and also esoteric European writers in a quest for culture, a quest to be more grown-up. Reading these coming of age novels, we were longing for adulthood, but years later we would look back longingly on the lives we were already living.

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