A Separate Peace by John Knowles
It would be inconceivable for an American author to write a coming-of-age novel in a comedic vein without reckoning with J.D. Salinger's A Catcher in the Rye; and it would be equally impossible to explore the genre in a tragic vein without taking account of John Knowles's A Separate Peace. In a way comparable perhaps only to The Lord of the Flies in England, A Separate Peace looms over the American literary imagination as both beacon and sentinel, enticing as many emulators by its extraordinary success as it discourages by the sheer magnificence of John Knowles's accomplishment. Season after season, coming-of-age novels are still published, as they will always be, but succeeding generations discover for themselves why A Separate Peace brooks no competitors. Set among a group of boys at a New England boarding school during World War II, it shines a light into the highest heights of beauty and the most profound depths of evil that young men are capable of reaching. At once harrowing and luminous, brooding and bittersweet, A Separate Peace has captured as if in amber the experience of adolescence for millions of readers over four decades. It is John Knowles's crowning achievement, and an undisputed American classic.