The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Published by Little Brown Book Group

THE Goldfinch is not the first novel one would expect to feel compelled to recommend to young readers.

The Goldfinch – a long and intense adventure more about art crime, obsession and antiques – seems to call out to the teenage mind.

Mixing genres and plots with precision, the impression one gets at the end, is that they have read a coming-of-age novel.

Theo Decker is 13 when the book opens with an explosion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. After losing his mother, he must find something to hold on to, but when this is a small painting of a goldfinch bird taken from the wreckage, it starts to feel more and more like a secret.

Beginning with him living in his childhood best friend’s home as a temporary safe haven, Theo grows up going from place to place, attempting to find family and a sense of security everywhere.

The book seems to be split up into these sections, of the entirely new worlds he inhabits in this goal, from an upper-middle-class New York apartment to the antique store of his mentor. Each of these homes is significant in character and narrative, but each time I speak to a young person about this novel, there is a resounding favourite.

When Theo is forced to live with his once-absent, constantly gambling father, it is in a near-empty area of Nevada. This is a stark change of pace from the explosive beginning and the many engaging consequences of taking the painting on that day bound to catch up to him, but this encapsulates its charm.

In beginning to become a teenager past the crushing weight of his grief, he meets Boris, a boy his age just as afraid of his father and just as desperate for the worst of coping mechanisms.

What forms is the kind of emotionally heightened and dependent friendship many young people will recognise from their own days of navigating growing up.

Following his time in Vegas, this account of the psyche of a young man as he navigates the path to adulthood after great trauma shifts into something new.

For every slow moment in these many pages, there is a sense it is necessary. The relationship with Boris pushes forward something which defines Theo’s life, and which feels impossible not to relate to in youth – obsession.

This turbulent protagonist ends up hurtling towards issues with drugs and obsessions with every person who loves or cares for him.

At 13, experiencing complex emotions for the first time, everyone feels as important and inescapable as escaping a fluke tragedy, and every guilt like harbouring a priceless piece of art.

In Theo’s unique coming-of-age story, Tartt leans into something very old, drawing on engaging fascinations with beauty and love.

This story, which is in the end, more about the teenage mind than art crime, is an unforgettable journey. It is exactly the kind of cosy yet adventurous epic to curl up with.