When I was choosing a setting for this week’s topic, I looked back at my Top Ten Settings I’d Like To See More Of (Or At All) list for inspiration. The one word that pops up over and over again in that list is school. Most YA protagonists go to school, but many books are set outside the school year, during the holidays. As much as I enjoy reading about teenage roadtrips and summertime adventures, I really love books where school plays an important role.
I really did not like school. I’m pretty sure that at least 75% of the time I spent in school could have been better used had I been left to my own devices, preferably in a well-stocked library. However, schools are fantastic plot devices. Even if the school itself is just your standard suburbian comprehensive, the mere fact that the characters are forced to go there five or more days per week and spend time with each other can lead to all sorts of fictional trouble. And if it’s a secret training ground for spies? Well…
1. The Boyfriend List, by E. Lockhart – Ruby Oliver is a scholarship student at Tate Prep, the odd one out who can’t afford to spend all afternoon eating cake in the trendy cafe or choose the most glamourous school trip option. Although the teachers are fantastic, the Tate Universe is small and gossip is rife, and it’s all too easy for Ruby to become a ‘social leper’.
2. Girl Meets Cake, by Susie Day – Heidi is another outsider, the only day girl at a boarding school. Again, it’s quirky and funny, and the intense school setting provides a lot of the drama.
3. Night School, by C. J. Daugherty – A thrilling mystery set in a luxurious boarding school – definitely the kind of school that I’d have loved to attend, if it wasn’t for all the murder.
4. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart – Another E. Lockhart book, I hear you cry. Keep reading, this is only number two of the three on this list, and E. Lockhart is brilliant at school settings, so there. Alabaster is an exclusive boarding school, and the home of the Basset Hounds, an all-boy secret society that Frankie plots to infiltrate.
5. A Great and Terrible Beauty, by Libba Bray – This is another boarding-school book, this time set in the Victorian era, with plenty of atmosphere. The school is really, really, creepy during the night-time scenes!
6. Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, by Gabrielle Zevin – School is the place where Naomi, the teenage amnesiac of the title, figures out who she is and who she wants to be.
7. Fly on the Wall, by E Lockhart – This time, E Lockhart sets the story in an arts school, but again the protagonist is an outsider, Gretchen Yee, who can’t get on with her teachers and is struggling to find a place amongst her peers. Then she gets turned into a fly on the wall of the boys’ locker room.
8. Spellbound, by Cara Lynn Shultz – The school itself is just another private day school, but it makes a great setting for the action scenes, and it is where all of Emma’s new relationships are forged.
9. I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have To Kill You, by Ally Carter – The Gallagher Academy is a training school for the spies of the future, and is full of secret passageways and gadgetry.
10. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, by J. K. Rowling – How could I not include one of the most famous boarding school books of all time? Hogwarts is a character in its own right.
Do you like books in which school plays a major role? Are you a fan of any of the books on my list?