Boarding School Books for Young Readers

Boarding school books have become pretty popular again in the last few years. These novels are often coming-of-age stories that highlight the potentially difficult time referred to as adolescence (or high school). They offer escape and connection. Solace and tension. 

But what happens when one book is done and the boarding school blues set in? For your reading (or book suggesting) convenience, I’ve created a list of fiction boarding school books for young readers below. To make more guided choices, I’ve broken the list down by genres, but please be aware that many books overlap within these genres.

Please let me know if you think something should be added to this list. 

If you love drama and all things boarding school, try:

[Unless otherwise noted,  all annotations provided by the Library of Congress Catalog in Publication]

For Fantasy/Sci-Fi Fans:

√ A Great and Terrible Beauty (series) by Libba Bray:

After the suspicious death of her mother in 1895, sixteen-year-old Gemma returns to England, after many years in India, to attend a finishing school where she becomes aware of her magical powers and ability to see into the spirit world.

√ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (series) by J.K. Rowling:

Rescued from the outrageous neglect of his aunt and uncle, a young boy with a great destiny proves his worth while attending Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry.

√ Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro:

Hailsham seems like a pleasant English boarding school, far from the influences of the city. Within the grounds, Kathy grows from schoolgirl to young woman, but it’s only when she and her friends Ruth and Tommy leave the safe grounds of the school (as they always knew they would) that they realize the full truth of what Hailsham is.

√ Hex Hall (series) by Rachel Hawkins:

Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. When she attracts too much human attention, her dad decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters. [From Goodreads.com]

For Paranormal Romance Fans:

Wildefire (trilogy) by Karsten Knight:

After a killing for which she feels responsible, sixteen-year-old Ashline Wilde moves cross-country to a remote California boarding school, where she learns that she and others have special gifts that can help them save the world, but evil forces are at work to stop them. [Also for fans of Greek Mythology]

 Vampire Academy (series) by Richelle Mead:

Two years after a horrible incident made them run away, vampire princess Lissa and her guardian-in-training Rose are found and returned to St. Vladimir’s Academy, where one focuses on mastering magic, the other on physical training, while both try to avoid the perils of gossip, cliques, gruesome pranks, and sinister plots.

√ Evernight (series) by Claudia Gray:

Sixteen-year-old Bianca, a new girl at the sinister Evernight boarding school, finds herself drawn to another outsider, Jared, but dark forces threaten to tear them apart and destroy Bianca’s entire world.

For Realistic/Contemporary Fiction Fans:

√ Looking For Alaska by John Green

Sixteen-year-old Miles’ first year at Culver Creek Preparatory School in Alabama includes good friends and great pranks, but is defined by the search for answers about life and death after a fatal car crash.

√ Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins:

When Anna’s romance-novelist father sends her to an elite American boarding school in Paris for her senior year of high school, she reluctantly goes, and meets an amazing boy who becomes her best friend, in spite of the fact that they both want something more.

√ The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Sophomore Frankie starts dating senior Matthew Livingston, but when he refuses to talk about the all-male secret society that he and his friends belong to, Frankie infiltrates the society in order to enliven their mediocre pranks.

√ The Mockingbirds (series) by Daisy Whitney

When Alex, a junior at an elite preparatory school, realizes that she may have been the victim of date rape, she confides in her roommates and sister who convince her to seek help from a secret society, the Mockingbirds.

√ Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Abandoned by her drug-addicted mother at the age of eleven, high school student Taylor Markham struggles with her identity and family history at a boarding school in Australia.

√ Bloomability by Sharon Creech:

When her aunt and uncle take her from New Mexico to Lugano, Switzerland, to attend an international school, thirteen-year-old Dinnie discovers an expanding world and her place within it.

 √ The Poison Apples by Lily Archer

At an elite Massachusetts boarding school, three fifteen-year-old girls of very different backgrounds discover a common bond and form a club to plot revenge against their evil stepmothers.

√ The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson

Seventeen-year-old Destiny keeps a painful childhood secret all to herself until she and three classmates from her exclusive boarding school take off on an unauthorized road trip in search of “one fair day.”

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld:

An insightful, achingly funny coming-of-age story as well as a brilliant dissection of class, race, and gender in a hothouse of adolescent angst and ambition. [From Goodreads.com]

√ Pretty Little Liars (series) by Sara Shepard:

When one of their tightly-knit group mysteriously disappears, four high school girls find their friendship difficult to maintain when they begin receiving taunting messages from someone who seems to know everything about their past and present secrets.

√ The Education of Hailey Kendrick by Eileen CookDating a popular boy and adhering to every rule ever written, a high school senior at an elite Vermont boarding school begins to shed her good girl identity after an angry incident with her distant father.

√ The Clique (series) by Lisi Harrison:

Wealthy Massie is determined to exclude middle class Claire, the daughter of her father’s old friend, from her seventh-grade clique at a very exclusive private school in Westchester, New York, but after Massie steals her only friend, Claire strikes back.

For Mystery Fans:

√ Vanished (series) by Kristi Holl

When the Landmark School for Girls’ van carrying an art teacher and six students disappears near an ice-covered lake on the way back from a field trip, twelve-year-old Jeri desperately wants to help but everything she tries seems to make the situation worse. 

*Did I miss something? What’s your favorite boarding school book?*

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9 comments on “Boarding School Books for Young Readers

  1. Thank you for the list! I attended boarding school and love reading what writers can come up with to depict boarding school life (though I believe most are romanticised version)

    The classic boarding school stories I remember reading was Enid Blyton’s Mallory Towers and the Chalet School series by Elinor Brent-Dyer

    Interesting that you’ve put Never Let Me Go on the list. I would’ve not thought put it in the list for young readers because I think it tackled quite a heavy topic.

  2. Mary R. on said:

    Wow! Nice list. Here are a couple more: Haven by Kristi Cook is a good one in the paranormal romance subcategory. Girls by Tucker Shaw is a fun read in the realistic/contemporary subcategory. I really like Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl by Sarah Miller, too. They have a paranormal element. Also, I believe Pretty Little Liars is a day school rather than a boarding school, though I may be misremembering. The same is true for The Clique Series. They’re set at exclusive prep schools.

  3. Gwen Gardner on said:

    Wow, that’s quite a list. Thanks!

  4. Robert on said:

    I hadn’t ever thought of it this way, but the wizarding schools in Harry Potter are basically boarding schools! This is a good list of books too, thanks!

  5. Alyssa @ Teens Read and Write on said:

    A great list! My favorite is Harry Potter – hands down! No place is better than Hogwarts – and Snape is the icing on the very gothically gorgeous cake!

  6. Boarding Schools on said:

    I think that boarding schools get a bad wrap. I have never been to one, but I know people who have and they came out alright.

  7. Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic on said:

    Fab list. I love helpful posts like these.

  8. Hannah on said:

    I love boarding school books. No idea why, LOL, but I’m glad I’m not the only one in my love of them.

    Ooh! You forgot “Shadow Hills” by Anastasia Hopcus and “Dead Beautiful” by Yvonne Woon.

  9. Genna Sarnak on said:

    Thanks everyone for the great feedback! I love making these lists because I think they help us readers (and writers?) expand our tastes and explore books we might not otherwise read. :)

    @Yen, I also love reading what writers concoct in terms of boarding school books. I think these types of books are especially good at highlighting the social and sometimes political systems that are often in place at high schools. I included Never Let Me Go for the more advanced and mature readers. I think it has a place there for the very reason you listed: it tackles some very heavy stuff. I think we often sell teens short in terms of what they can handle in terms of content and subject matter.

    @Mary R., Wow, those are some awesome suggestions to add! Thank you so much! I never even considered adding Haven before, but you’re right, it does work well. I think you are right in this case about Pretty Little Liars and the Prep series; they are more about prep day-schools. At the same time, I think they might also appeal to boarding school fans. Thanks for pointing out that distinction!

    @Gwen, thanks for stopping by and for the kind words!

    @Robert, I had also never thought of HP books as boarding school books, but they do fit the criteria. Thanks for stopping by and for the comment!

    @Alyssa, I would have to agree with you about HP! They’re my all-time favorite too! I love how you phrased it, so gothically delicious!

    @Boarding Schools, I would agree with you that these types of schools usually get a bad wrap. It’s mostly because people assume all students at these types of schools are jaded and spoiled, though that’s not always true!

    @Alexis, Your feedback is much appreciated. Please let me know if there is ever a specific list of books that you think might be helpful. I’m open to suggestions and would love to be able to help people out with these lists!

    @Hannah, I’m so glad that you love boarding school books too. Ah, I did forget Shadow Hills and Dead Beautiful! Thanks so much for reminding me!

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