book coverI’ve just driven all the way home behind a car with a personalised number plate. Put aside for one moment, if you will, all the dangers of black ice, potholes and furtive mobile phone users and give due regard to the potentially hazardous distractions of the personalised plate. This one said θENURS  – of course I just had to know  what the driver looked like. So I overtook and looked left just to check. Not that naughty, as it turns out.

This is not the first time that personal plates have influenced a road trip. We spent a frustrating drive to Dunedin, passing and re-passing a car with a plate so cryptic we never did work it out. I’ve also kept my distance from a driver whose plate spelt out WODEVA, knowing full well that his attitude to insurance cover would probably be cavalier, to say the least.

They’re not cheap either. You could buy a small African nation for the cost of the really rare ones, take for example KIWI1  or IM2SXE. So why do people love them so much? Kerre Woodham has some answers in her book GR8PL8S and even the New Zealand Government has given credibility to this little bit of madness with guidelines for their use.

Teeth grindingly annoying as they may be though, once you’ve noticed them, its hard to resist the temptation to reduce your entire life to six or seven integers. I went to a New Zealand website and tried out a few. RDZOND – taken. USNZULZ – taken. Even FUTSEK (South African for “go away”, I’m being polite here) amazingly enough, was taken. Finally I managed to get a click away from one that hadn’t yet been grabbed – that’s right: θEBLOGA!

Pick ‘n’ mix grows up: from Charlotte’s Web to An Education

CoverPosh literary types call them bildungsroman, publishers call them coming-of-age novels, and we – well, we just read them and love them.  We’ve all read at least one and often they stand out in our minds.

Sometimes they’re books, sometimes  movies, and sometimes they are the best of both.

In essence (and being screamingly simplistic), the coming-of-age genre works like this:

  • The main character is young;
  • Some stuff happens to him/her;
  • They grow up.

Clearly there’s a bit of actual physical aging involved, but usually it’s more about some sort of emotional, spiritual or psychological journey towards maturity.

The transition can be from child to teenager – think Charlotte’s Web, or Anne of Green Gables, or Labyrinth.

Or teenager to adult – The Catcher in the Rye, I Capture the Castle, Jane Eyre.

Coming-of-age novels often inspire great devotion in their readers, and those who love them read them again and again. They often translate exceptionally well into movie form – think of recent well-received films like An Education, The Kite-Runner, The Secret Life of Bees, and Never Let Me Go; or older favourites like Stand By Me (from Stephen King’s short story The Body), The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off …

But I’m waxing lyrical (again).  I made the mistake of googling ‘coming-of-age’, and now have a TONNE of new titles to find, and old favourites to re-read and re-watch:

If you’re interested:

And finally!  Tell me below all the mistakes I’ve made, the titles I’ve missed, and why I should read your fave coming-of-age novel next.