Gifts by Ursula Le Guin
Here, we enter a feudal world in the Uplands where some people have Gifts, such as the gift of “unmaking” (Orrec’s family’s gift) or the gift of speaking to animals (Gry’s family’s gift). To protect the continuance of those Gifts (as well as horses, livestock, and farmland), families and feudal domains are in a constant tension. Orrec is caught in the middle of this. This is the story of Orrec growing up, and the deeper into the book, we realize how caught he is. Leguin is a master of storytelling. As she weaves episodes and flashbacks into the narrative, I found myself taken in and sharing the difficult emotions of Orrec. Though this is technically a “fantasy” book, the complex family dynamics, strong friendship, the struggle with ones place in the greater social order all ring true for growing up (as well as the rest of life).