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8 Books Set in Residential Schools

by Jen Moyers (@jen.loves.books)

I'm a big fan of books set in residential schools, whether they're boarding schools or colleges. There are a MILLION out there, so I just chose the first ones that popped into my head when I thought of this topic. There's something about residential schools that concentrates life experience--when I was in high school reading Lord of the Flies, we spent SO much time talking about how the boys' time on the island was a microcosm for human existence, and I think residential schools can function the same way.

Leigh Bardugo's Ninth House - Bardugo is an auto-buy author for me, and I was excited when she announced that she was launching a new series for adults. Ninth House did not disappoint! Here's my review.

Elisabeth Thomas's Catherine House - This recent release is a claustrophobic, mind-bending wonder. Here's my review.

Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep - This was the first book I read by Sittenfeld, and it made her a must-read author for me. Prep follows Lee Fiora through her four years at Massachusetts's Ault School, and I could not put down this compelling, character-focused novel.

Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl - Fangirl, my favorite book by Rainbow Rowell, follows protagonist Cath through her first year in college. Cath is an introvert, a twin (her sister Wren goes to the same school), and a writer of fan fiction for the popular Simon Snow fantasy series. At one point, a character in the book says that a few months of college is like years of "regular" life (that's a ROUGH paraphrase!), and it's one reason we see Cath grow so much.

Lisa Lutz's The Swallows - Sara shared this one with me--it is a twisty, mysterious read that kept me entranced until the last page. Here's my review.

Lev Grossman's The Magicians - The Magicians is the first book in a trilogy about a school for magicians, including Quentin Coldwater, who is obsessed with a fantasy series about a magical land called Fillory that is transparently inspired by Narnia. These books are dark and gritty, with all the fun of any magical school. (The television adaptation, while quite different, is also great!)

Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go - It's nearly impossible to describe this book without spoilers, so I'll just say: read this book immediately! It is absolutely brilliant. (Again, I'll recommend the adaptation--this one is a fabulous film.)

Meg Wolitzer's Belzhar - Wolitzer's YA novel about a boarding school for teenagers who need therapy makes beautiful use of literary allusions and a surreal narrative to tell the story of Jam Gallahue and the magical world she discovers.

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