Blah blah New York City is the center of the universe blah blah. Why is everyone so obsessed with New York City?
Because there are hundreds of books set there! And you can see why. If New York City were a kind of candy, it would be a giant bag of jelly beans, and the flavors would be called Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx. Get it? New York City is diverse! You can find Chinese food, Italian food, and Argentinean food on the same street! And, of course, you can retrace the steps of dozens of famous literary characters. Here’s a sampler:
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
Think about every time you ever thought about running away from home. Then add 10 liters of cool. In The Mixed-Up Files, Claudia Kincaid and her brother, Jamie, run away in style by escaping to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Because who really wants to suffer in the rain with just a backpack full of PB & J and a deck of cards when there are cool adventures to be had, antique beds to be slept in, and ancient fountains to bathe in? If you’re looking to explore the best real estate on Manhattan’s posh Upper East Side, let Claudia and Jamie show you around.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
If the title didn’t already make this obvious, this 1943 book is set in Brooklyn—specifically, Williamsburg, which is currently the land of plaid T-shirts, retro glasses, skinny jeans, and artists-slash-dog-walkers. Francie Nolan is the daughter of Irish immigrants, but aside from her status as an outsider, her biggest problem is that she’s constantly being underestimated because she’s a girl. Ultimately, Francie uses a combination of raw intellect and determination to show them all. The coolest part of the book? Knowing that Francie’s Williamsburg is just as culturally diverse now as it was then … just with more hipsters. Also, METAPHOR ALERT: Francie is the tree.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Angst, angst, and more angst, with a dash of oncoming mental illness. Holden Caulfield comes to New York City fresh from his expulsion from boarding school and on the lookout for phonies. He walks around. He pouts. He ice skates at Rockefeller Center. He pouts some more. He watches his sister ride the carousel at the Central Park Zoo and goes to the American Museum of Natural History, where he compares his life to those of the Eskimo statues on display (and decides that they’re both lonely, *sigh*). This is an iconic book about the realities of growing up, but why all the whining, Holden? You just got to visit NYC’s most classic tourist hot spots!
City of Bones (Book One of the Mortal Instruments series) by Cassandra Clare
Fun fact about New York City: there’s a secret society of “Shadowhunters” roaming the streets and using rune-powered magic to send demons back to Hell. Go figure. There is also an invisible Gothic cathedral (a.k.a “The Institute”) in the heart of the city that serves as a home base for the Shadowhunters. If vistors found out about this, the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty would be completely out of business. Every city has a dark underbelly, but for the sake of New York’s tourism industry, let’s keep this one on the down low.
Bronxwood by Coe Booth
Tyrell’s life in the Bronx is far from easy: his dad has just gotten out of jail, his brother is in a foster home, and his mother can’t seem to take care of herself. Despite everything, the streets of Bronxwood, a grimy neighborhood in the heart of the Bronx, provide a stable home Tyrell can count on when he feels lost or confused. Tyrell, beyond all his problems, is just a regular 16-year-old dude with girl issues, a passion for DJ-ing, and a solid group of friends. A look at the tougher side of NYC, this book will get your blood pumping.