Growing pains? 5 books to go with your teenage angst

Luna Coscolluela

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Growing pains? 5 books to go with your teenage angst
Here are some must-read novels to cope with your teen rage – even for adults who still have a little angst in them

MANILA, Philippines – From rage to existential dread to complete and utter joy, the teenage years have it all. For most of us, the ages between 13 and 19 are an excruciatingly long whirlwind of emotions. These crucial years make or break who you are and what you become – no wonder they’re such a pain to live through.

As someone pushing 20, I consider myself an expert witness to all the growing pains that come with the terrible teens. I’ve done my dues: I’ve had my ill-fated first love, been through multiple existential crises, and survived the dreaded college applications. Like everyone entering this stage in their life, I wasn’t equipped to deal with it, but I still managed to make it through.

One way I found solace during this time was by reading books that just got me. They made the startling reality of growing up make so much more sense. I felt validated and seen when I wasn’t even sure that what I was feeling was real.

If you’re looking for books to cope with your teen angst or are even an adult who still has a little angst in them, here are a few reads to check out:

‘Normal People’ by Sally Rooney

A heartfelt story about young love and its transformative nature, Normal People is a tender ode to growing up and letting go. It follows the lives of Marianne and Connell, two young people whose identities become inextricably intertwined as they enter the world and discover their places in it. 

Through its characters, the novel touches on themes of class and gender without being heavy-handed. It always returns to the central narrative that is simply two people falling in love in a world that has only started to make sense to them. This book is for the romantics looking for something between realism and beauty.

‘Bunny’ by Mona Awad

Mona Awad’s sophomore novel is fun and deeply unhinged. Reminiscent of cult classic films like Heathers and Jennifer’s Body, this book leads readers through a gloriously twisted story. It tells the tale of Samantha Heather Mackey, a student enrolled in a highly selective creative writing program. She meets the “Bunnies,” a Mean Girls-esque clique in her class, and a surreal journey begins.

Bunny takes on ideas of loneliness and belonging, the struggles of a creative mind, and the terrors of female existence without any hesitation, giving us a uniquely distorted modern fairytale. This book is for lovers of the dark and macabre who are looking for their next must-read.

‘Play It As It Lays’ By Joan Didion

Written with Joan Didion’s signature precision and exacting prose, Play It As It Lays is gorgeously sad. The novel is about Maria Wyeth, a self-destructive actress, living in the horrible glamour of 1960s Hollywood. It is told from the perspective of its melancholic heroine whose identity constantly dances between deeply disturbed and wonderfully vibrant.

The story centers around tragic femininity and the pitfalls of stardom. It pinpoints problematic perspectives surrounding mental health and the fantasies of fame. This book is for readers who love complex characters and gut-wrenching stories.

‘Circe’ by Madeline Miller

Based on Greek mythology, Madeline Miller’s Circe is a modern adaptation of The Odyssey. Told from the perspective of its titular character, this novel is a feminist masterpiece. It follows the story of Circe, the first witch in Greek mythology, and her harrowing life under the power of the gods.

While staying true to the source material, Miller offers a perspective into well-established myths that adds new layers and dynamics to existing narratives. It uses its supernatural background to tell a touching story of life and death, of change and growth, and of not-so-good and not-too-bad. This book is for fantasy and mythology buffs looking for a wonderfully human take on a tale as old as time.

‘Someone Who Will Love You In All Your Damaged Glory’ by Raphael Bob-Waksberg

Funny and poignant, this collection of love short stories has something for everyone. “Up-and-Comers” is a superhero story where a group of young people gain powers, only to realize that they only work when they’re drunk. “Missed Connection–m4w” is written as an ad searching for a love that never was spanning countless years and a million could-have-been moments. My personal favorite, “A Most Blessed and Auspicious Occasion,” is about both a wedding and a ritual goat sacrifice gone wrong.

Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s debut collection balances heartfelt stories with dark humor – all in the name of love. It showcases an astonishing range of human emotion, from sadness to joy, from loneliness to belonging, and from real to absolutely bizarre. This book is perfect for fans of moving tales told from absurd perspectives. –

Luna Coscolluela is a Rappler intern.

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