The 'coming of age' story is about one or more characters growing up -- maturing in their social, intellectual, psychological, and/or sexual relationships. The 'coming of age' story typically will examine a character at an age somewhere between early adolescence and early adulthood.

The lessons taught in the 'coming of age' novel or film may or may not be written specifically toward the gender of the main character(s). Two popular 'coming of age' novels with male protagonists are J.D.Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye and James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man. Two well-regarded novels with female protagonists are Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye and Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street.