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How to Tell if You’re in a Coming-of-Age Novel

In real life, coming of age isn’t as simple as reaching the end of your story and knowing you’ve grown as a person. More often than not, you simply wake up one day and taxes are happening to you. It is then, and only then, that you’ll realize you’ve made it—you’ve staggered dumbly through the labyrinthine mire also known adolescence and somehow emerged, victorious and bewildered, on the other side, even though you’re still not entirely sure how you did it.

In books, things are much more straightforward. Here’s how you know you’re coming of age:

1. You hate the suburbs. They are a prison.

2. Someone named Chad is being a jerk.

3. A popular girl takes you under her wing. She gives you a makeover both physically and metaphorically.

4. You develop an unlikely friendship with someone outside your social circle.

5. You have an embarrassing part-time job. The popular kids come by every now and again just to watch you suffer.

6. Your car is very old, and borderline unusable.

7. Your family is charmingly dysfunctional.

8. You’re about to find out who your real friends are.

9. Your childhood best friend is wise beyond their years and probably marked for death.

10. Your parents just don’t get it.

11. Your English teacher is life-changing and subversive.

12. Something terrible is happening, and you’re forced to grow up too soon.

13. It’s heavily implied that your first love interest is the only person you will ever date.

14. Your mentor has a dark secret.

15. Your mentor makes references to books you have not read.

16. Your mentor is killed unexpectedly, leaving you to make your own way in this crazy world.

17. You are doing stupid things with your hair, and you’re wearing sweaters that look terrible on you. Someone of higher social standing calls attention to this. It is a turning point in your life.

18. You are going on a road trip with no set destination.

19. You are clumsy. It’s one of your more endearing flaws.

20. You are the only teenager who doesn’t like going to parties. Your love interest finds this both mysterious and alluring.

21. You are a boy, and you have sex once, and you are a man now.

22. You are a girl, and you have sex once, and the now the whole school hates you for it.

23. All teenagers are on drugs, and they want you to be on drugs, too.

24. You don’t have a date to the school dance. You don’t care about this, but everyone else is worried about you.

25. You are the only person in your group of friends who has not gotten their period.

26. You finally got your period, and thus have reached enlightenment.

27. Everything leads to graduation.

28. Your father figure disapproves.

29. You have a crush on the hot, emotionally stunted jock even though your best friend has been right there the whole time and is secretly in love with you.

30. You have a mysterious past that you’re not ready to know about. Not yet, anyway.