Mandy Berman’s debut novel, Perennials, is a sharp and smart coming-of-age story about nostalgia, adolescent longing, and the enduring power of female friendship, set in the timeless, magical realm of summer camp, “the one place where you could trust that the only thing to change every year would be you.”
The booksellers who handpick selections for our Discover Great New Writers program loved Mandy’s characters and her fresh take on a familiar setting, and they’re not alone: Rufi Thorpe (Dear Fang, With Love) and J. Courtney Sullivan (Saints for All Occasions) are also fans of Mandy’s debut.
Here’s Berman to recommend her own favorite coming-of-age novels, perfect for summer reading and beyond.
Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld
This modern classic, about a middle-class teenage girl attending a posh boarding school on full scholarship, is an enthralling meditation on what it feels like to be an outsider while in the already tumultuous throes of adolescence. Sittenfield’s writing on class and gender, through the first-person lens of Lee, is acute, painful, and all-too-real. I related to Lee’s navigation of the thorny, confusing, sexualized path of becoming a young woman.
Goodbye, Columbus, by Philip Roth
Roth’s first book, a novella about ill-fated teenage lovers Neil Klugman and Brenda Patimkin, is one of those classics that I can’t believe I only read recently. Roth captures the missteps of youth in love with pinpoint accuracy. Anyone who was ever in their early twenties will remember how it felt to be invincible, as Neil and Brenda both do, and will cringe with recognition at the mistakes they both make, mistakes that, in many ways, usher them unceremoniously into adulthood.
Summer Sisters, by Judy Blume
On a ski trip with my family when I was fifteen, I went to the slopes for exactly one day, then spent the rest of the week at the hotel’s indoor pool reading this book. Taking place over the course of many summers on Martha’s Vineyard—beginning when best friends Vix and Caitlin are eleven, and concluding twenty years later—Summer Sisters captures the complexities of young female friendship with such acuity and grace it’s no wonder Blume holds a place as one of our most eminent contemporary writers for children and young adults.
Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger
No book spoke to me more when I was nineteen years old than this Salinger book did, a short story and a novella about two members of Salinger’s recurring Glass family. College freshman Franny’s existential crisis while on a date with a boyfriend, who’s so clearly wrong for her, will stick with me forever. Salinger captures, maybe better than anyone, what it feels like to be young and anxious and out of place and time in a world you’re supposed to belong to.
Mandy Berman’s Perennials is on sale now.