Category Archives: Coming of Age

Review: The All-American by Susie Finkbeiner

Title: The All-American by Susie Finkbeiner
Publisher: Revell
Genre: Historical (’50s), Coming of Age, Fiction
Length: 351 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher


Two sisters discover how much good there is in the world–even in the hardest of circumstances

It is 1952, and nearly all the girls 16-year-old Bertha Harding knows dream of getting married, keeping house, and raising children in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. Bertha dreams of baseball. She reads every story in the sports section, she plays ball with the neighborhood boys–she even writes letters to the pitcher for the Workington Sweet Peas, part of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

When Bertha’s father is accused of being part of the Communist Party by the House Un-American Activities Committee, life comes crashing down on them. Disgraced and shunned, the Hardings move to a small town to start over where the only one who knows them is shy Uncle Matthew. But dreams are hard to kill, and when Bertha gets a chance to try out for the Workington Sweet Peas, she packs her bags for an adventure she’ll never forget.

Join award-winning author Susie Finkbeiner for a summer of chasing down your dreams and discovering the place you truly belong.


Set in 1952, The All-American by Susie Finkbeiner is a charming coming of age novel.

Oldest sister Bertha plays baseball with the local boys and dreams of joining the local women’s team. Flossie is happiest with her nose buried in a book and can be a tad melodramatic on occasion. Their mom is a typical housewife for the time period while their father is a best-selling author. Their lives drastically change after their father is accused of being a member of the Communist party.

The All-American is a heartwarming novel that is humorous despite its sometimes-serious undertones. The chapters alternate from between sisters Flossie and Bertha’s points of view. They are very different from each other and their individuality shines through in their unique voices. The storyline is captivating and quite interesting.  Susie Finkbeiner weaves both the women’s baseball and House of Unamerican Activities into a beautifully written novel that is very compelling. I absolutely loved and highly recommend this heartfelt and engaging story.

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Filed under 1950s, Coming of Age, Fiction, Rated B+, Review, Susie Finkbeiner, The All-American

Review: Revival Season by Monica West

Title: Revival Season by Monica West
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Contemporary, Coming of Age, Fiction
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


The daughter of one of the South’s most famous Baptist preachers discovers a shocking secret about her father that puts her at odds with both her faith and her family in this “tender and wise” (Ann Patchett, author of Commonwealth) debut novel.

Every summer, fifteen-year-old Miriam Horton and her family pack themselves tight in their old minivan and travel through small southern towns for revival season: the time when Miriam’s father—one of the South’s most famous preachers—holds massive healing services for people desperate to be cured of ailments and disease. This summer, the revival season doesn’t go as planned, and after one service in which Reverend Horton’s healing powers are tested like never before, Miriam witnesses a shocking act of violence that shakes her belief in her father—and in her faith.

When the Hortons return home, Miriam’s confusion only grows as she discovers she might have the power to heal—even though her father and the church have always made it clear that such power is denied to women. Over the course of the next year, Miriam must decide between her faith, her family, and her newfound power that might be able to save others, but, if discovered by her father, could destroy Miriam.

Celebrating both feminism and faith, Revival Season is a story of spiritual awakening and disillusionment in a Southern, black, Evangelical community. Monica West’s transporting coming-of-age novel explores complicated family and what it means to live among the community of the faithful.


Revival Season by Monica West is an engrossing coming of age novel that is written from the perspective of the fifteen-year-old daughter of a Black evangelical, faith-healing preacher.

Miriam Horton is very devout, obeys her parents and completely idolizes her father, Samuel. Their family is well-respected and they are all very involved in her father’s church. Every summer, Miriam, her brother Caleb and their younger sister Hannah join their parents on their yearly revival tour. This summer’s revival is off to a strong start but that changes after Hannah witnesses a violent altercation between her dad and a man who casts doubts on her father’s faith healing ability. They continue on the tour but attendance continues to plummet as word of her father’s violence spreads.

Once they return home, Miriam is surprised no one seems to know what happened and Samuel carries on like nothing is wrong. As for Miriam, her viewpoint of her father is forever altered and she begins to question much of what his teachings. She has come to doubt his faith healing ability and this opinion is confirmed when she accidentally heals her best friend, Micah. As word spreads of her newfound skill, Miriam is desperate to keep her father from finding out. As Samuel becomes more volatile both at church and home, Miriam grows increasingly frightened for her family’s safety.

Miriam’s entire perspective about her father, her parents’ marriage and her faith change dramatically after she witnesses her father’s violent temper. She does not know if she can trust him and she is dismayed by her mother’s complete acquiescence to her husband. Once Miriam realizes she has the gift of healing, she knows how dangerous it is for Samuel to know. But as their family circumstances alter, Miriam contemplates the unthinkable as she grows more and more angry at her father.

Revival Season is a well-written novel with a fascinating storyline. Miriam is a multi-dimensional character whose faith in her father is destroyed which leaves her questioning her life. Her mom is mostly subservient but she does show a different side of herself to her daughter on occasion. Samuel cannot accept blame for his mistakes and he makes no effort to hide his anger at home.  The novel moves at a brisk pace and Monica West brings this thought-provoking novel to an abrupt conclusion.

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Filed under Coming of Age, Contemporary, Fiction, Monica West, Rated B, Rated B+, Review, Revival Season, Simon & Schuster Inc

Review: The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington

Title: The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Genre: Historical (’80s), Southern Fiction, Coming of Age
Length: 315 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


When Charlie Boykin was young, he thought his life with his single mother on the working-class side of Nashville was perfectly fine. But when his mother arranges for him to be admitted as a scholarship student to an elite private school, he is suddenly introduced to what the world can feel like to someone cushioned by money. That world, he discovers, is an almost irresistible place where one can bend—and break—rules and still end up untarnished. As he gets drawn into a friendship with a charismatic upperclassman, Archer Creigh, and an affluent family that treats him like an adopted son, Charlie quickly adapts to life in the upper echelons of Nashville society. Under their charming and alcohol-soaked spell, how can he not relax and enjoy it all—the lack of anxiety over money, the easy summers spent poolside at perfectly appointed mansions, the lavish parties, the freedom to make mistakes knowing that everything can be glossed over or fixed?

But over time, Charlie is increasingly pulled into covering for Archer’s constant deceits and his casual bigotry. At what point will the attraction of wealth and prestige wear off enough for Charlie to take a stand—and will he?

The Fortunate Ones is an immersive, elegantly written story that conveys both the seductiveness of this world and the corruption of the people who see their ascent to the top as their birthright.


The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington is a riveting coming of age novel set in Nashville, TN.

Raised by his single mother, Bonnie, Charlie Boykin’s father died in Vietnam before he was born. He and his mom live with his cousin in an impoverished part of Nashville.  His mother works as a cocktail waitress and money is extremely tight. But his life drastically changes when Bonnie secures Charlie a scholarship to a private school.  He is befriended by Archer “Arch” Creigh and Charlie is suddenly thrust into a world of wealth and privilege.  With his future secure, will Charlie continue to enjoy the life to which he has grown  accustomed?

Having never known any other life, Charlie is happy living with Bonnie and her cousin Sunny. He is best friends with Terrence Robie, who protects him from bullies.  Charlie is a good student who stays out of trouble so he is surprised when Bonnie moves him to the private school. He continues living in the poor section of town while going to a posh school and hanging out with wealthy friends.  But when Bonnie begins working for one of his friend’s family, they move into her new boss’s carriage house. Now living a very comfortable life, Charlie leaves his humble beginnings behind.

After graduation, Charlie’s life takes a drastic turn and he starts a new life far away from TN.  Making a name for himself as an artist, he is living with friends when Arch suddenly reappears in his life. Afterward, Charlie is drawn back into the wealthy life he ran away from ten years earlier.  At first supporting Arch’s rise in politics, Charlie again considers walking away once he realizes Arch’s political ambition is more important than his principles.

The Fortunate Ones is an engrossing novel with an interesting storyline. Charlie is a complex man who is quite introspective once he is much older. The plot is engaging and readers will find it easy to become entangled in Charlie’s world. With some unexpected twists and turns,  Ed Tarkington brings this well-written and enthralling novel to a thought-provoking conclusion. I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend this multi-layered novel to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Algonquin Books, Coming of Age, Ed Tarkington, Rated B+, Review, Southern Fiction, The Fortunate Ones

Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea by Morgan Callan Rogers

Title: Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea by Morgan Callan Rogers
Florine Series Book One
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Imprint: Viking
Genre: Fiction, Coming of Age, 1960s
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


A captivating debut, introducing a spirited young heroine coming of age in coastal Maine during the early 1960s.

When her mother disappears during a weekend trip, Florine Gilham’s idyllic childhood is turned upside down. Until then she’d been blissfully insulated by the rhythms of family life in small town Maine: watching from the granite cliffs above the sea for her father’s lobster boat to come into port, making bread with her grandmother, and infiltrating the summer tourist camps with her friends. But with her mother gone, the heart falls out of Florine’s life and she and her father are isolated as they struggle to manage their loss.

Both sustained and challenged by the advice and expectations of her family and neighbors, Florine grows up with her spirit intact. And when her father’s past comes to call, she must accept that life won’t ever be the same while keeping her mother vivid in her memories. With Fannie Flagg’s humor and Elizabeth Strout’s sense of place, this debut is an extraordinary snapshot of a bygone America through the eyes of an inspiring girl blazing her own path to womanhood.


Morgan Callan Rogers’ debut novel Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea is a beautifully written coming of age story that is poignant and moving. Florine Gilham’s carefree and sheltered childhood comes to an abrupt end with her mother’s disappearance while on her annual getaway with a girlfriend.

Until her mother’s disappearance, Florine lives a charmed life in a small fishing community on the coast of Maine. With her father falling apart and desperately trying to cope with her own grief, Florine depends on her small circle of friends and her paternal grandmother, Grand, as she enters into her tumultuous teen years. Grand is a practical, no nonsense, down to earth woman and Florine moves in with her when her dad turns to another woman for comfort.

The other constants in Florine’s life are her friends Dottie, Bud and Glen. Dottie is a close confidant who is always there for her yet she does not let Florine become mired down by her grief. While she is not as close to Bud and Glen as she is to Dottie, the two young men are always on the periphery of her life and when Florine experiences other losses, they provide unwavering support for her.

Forced to grow up too fast, Florine is sometimes rebellious and she does not always make the best decisions. Her relationship with her father is often contentious but they do eventually come to terms with one another. Carlie’s presence is felt throughout the novel and while we come to know bits and pieces of her character, she remains elusively out of reach both literally and figuratively.

Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea is a compelling character driven novel told in first person from Florine’s perspective. The characters are well-drawn and appealing and the plot is engaging and realistic. Never bleak or depressing, there is a strong undercurrent of love and Morgan Callan Rogers deftly balances this sometimes heartbreaking story with wry and unexpected humor. The ending of novel is surprisingly hopeful as Florine finally begins to find her way.


Filed under 1960s, Coming of Age, Florine Series, Morgan Callan Rogers, Penguin Group, Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea, Viking