Peter Bognnani: “Top 5 Underrated Coming of Age Movies”

Author Peter Bognnani stops by today to share five fantastic coming-of-age movies, in honor of his new YA novel, This Book is Not Yet Rated, which is in stores on Tuesday. (And you can see my full review here!)

Top Five Underrated Coming of Age Movies
by Peter Bognnani

The protagonist of my new book, Ethan Ashby, is a film buff to put it mildly. He’s the impromptu manager of the Green Street Cinema, where he tries to keep all the eccentric employees in check. When he’s not trying to keep the rats out of the candy, he’s watching movies, the artier the better. The following are some teen films that I think Ethan would approve of. They’re coming of age stories with an indie sensibility.

Eighth Grade

This movie absolutely destroyed me. The feelings of social anxiety are so powerful they seem to flow through the screen and into your body. I was squirming in my seat, but when I went back to think about what happened, I was like…she went to the mall? Also a hot take: Elsie Fisher should have won an Oscar for her lead performance.


Who doesn’t like a movie about a teenager who still sucks his thumb? This movie flew under the radar a bit when it came out, but it’s a great coming of age tale complete with heartbreak, a ADHD diagnosis, and Keanu Reeves in one of his best roles ever as a philosophical orthodontist who induces hypnosis. How could you not love this?

Raising Victor Vargas

This is a movie about a cocky young guy on the Lower East Side of New York, who sets his sights on the prettiest girl in the neighborhood. On paper, the premise sounds familiar, but the relationships feel so alive, and the family dynamics are so nuanced, it shines through as a unique and heartfelt film.

Rocket Science

It’s possible I’m the only person on earth who loves this movie, but the heart wants what the heart wants. This one is about fifteen-year-old Hal, who has a chronic stutter. And so of course, he tries to join the debate team. A lovely story ensues and when Hal successfully orders a slice of pizza near the end, I’m always on the edge of my seat.

The House of Tomorrow

Okay. This is a movie based on my first book. But. But! I feel like Ethan would really like it. This might be Alex Wolff’s best performance to date. And of course, there’s the stunning cameo of the author on a train, scratching a rash. Who was really robbed of an Oscar?

The Green Street Cinema has always been a sanctuary for Ethan. Maybe it’s because movies help him make sense of real life, or maybe it’s because the cinema is the one place he can go to still feel close to his dad, a film professor who died three years ago. Either way, it’s a place worth fighting for, especially when developers threaten to tear it down to build a luxury condos.

They say it’s structurally unsound and riddled with health code violations. They clearly don’t understand that the crumbling columns and even Brando, the giant rat with a taste for sour patch kids, are a part of the fabric of this place that holds together the misfits and the dreamers of the changing neighborhood the cinema house has served for so many years.

Now it’s up to the employees of the Green Street Cinema–Sweet Lou the organist with a penchant for not-so-sweet language; Anjo the projectionist, nicknamed the Oracle for her opaque-but-always-true proclamations; Griffin and Lucas who work the concessions, if they work at all; and Ethan, known as “Wendy,” the leader of these Lost Boys–to save the place they love.

It’s going to take a movie miracle if the Green Street is going to have a happy ending. And when Raina, Ethan’s oldest friend (and possible soul mate?), comes back home from Hollywood where she’s been starring in B-movies about time-traveling cats, Ethan thinks that miracle just may have been delivered. But life and love aren’t always like the movies. And when the employees of the Green Street ask what happens in the end to the Lost Boys, Ethan has to share three words he’s not been ready to say.

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