A genre can best be described as a category of something, usually art, music, or literature. In music, there are divisions such as jazz, classical, and rap, and these are called genres. There are plenty of categories subdividing art, as well.The young adult novel Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen is a coming-of-age novel, and that is also its genre.
In this genre, the main character (protagonist)moves from a place of innocence to a place of maturity in some form. In this novel, Cole Matthews is fifteen years old and thinks he knows everything. He beats another boy nearly to death--literally--and is put in prison. He is offered a rare opportunity to experience Circle Justice, a Native American method of finding both healing and justice for everyone involved. Cole is stubborn and has no interest in changing until he has an encounter with a bear know as the Spirit Bear. Though it nearly costs him his life, this encounter is the beginning of healing, understanding, and forgiveness.
Through the course of this novel, Cole Matthews grows from an angry, selfish, stubborn boy into a young man who recognizes his sins, is willing to ask forgiveness for the wrongs he has done, and will go on to be a better person for having had this experience. A character making that kind of realization is the crux of a coming-of-age novel.