The best books about boarding school

14 authors have picked their favorite books about boarding schools and why they recommend each book.

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Anne of Avonlea

By Lucy Maud Montgomery,

Book cover of Anne of Avonlea

Anne is one of the most lovable female characters in the whole literature. When I read about her I feel like I’m her good friend and I’m excited about her along with the story. Anne is now 16 years old and she begins her job as the new schoolteacher in this book. It was a great continuation of her story and I love seeing Anne starts to become an adult while still keeping her positive personality. And I really appreciate the very special romantic storyline too. Anne always stays Anne, a great girl.


Who am I?

I'm an archaeologist and addicted to reading and writing historical fictions. My first big love is history and I prefer Victorian Era. I’m interested in women’s lives and their habits and relationships in the old times. I was born and raised in Hungary, I’m often stay in London. I was working for years in museums in different cities while I was writing historical short stories and my first novel. School of Ladies – The Debutantes is a historical romance which has won an Audience Award in my country.


I wrote...

School of Ladies: The Debutantes

By Ennie Smith,

Book cover of School of Ladies: The Debutantes

What is my book about?

This is a story about six seventeen-year-old girls attending a charm school where they are preparing for the ball of their lives, as they try to find their perfect match in a true gentleman.

Six young ladies and a ball. The Coming Out ball where they can become princesses for an evening, and the charm school where they prepare for their big opportunity. A story about a seventeen-year-old girl, Emma Derkin, and five other young ladies. They all want the same thing - to find the perfect mate. It takes place a long time ago in the Victorian Era, when every girl grew up as a real lady.

Abigail

By Magda Szabo, Len Rix (translator),

Book cover of Abigail

I can’t forget my very talented compatriot, Magda Szabó’s great writing. I am very proud of her and her success. It was hard work and lasted a lifetime for her to reach as Hungarian her books became popular worldwide. I hope one day I can follow her… This book is set in a religious school in the middle of World War II. The protagonist is young Gina, the daughter of a Hungarian General. The novel analyzes important social problems, teenager problems. At first, Gina is an outcast then we can see how she tries to fit in the class, and she makes friends. Friendship and togetherness are in the spotlight in this novel.


Who am I?

I'm an archaeologist and addicted to reading and writing historical fictions. My first big love is history and I prefer Victorian Era. I’m interested in women’s lives and their habits and relationships in the old times. I was born and raised in Hungary, I’m often stay in London. I was working for years in museums in different cities while I was writing historical short stories and my first novel. School of Ladies – The Debutantes is a historical romance which has won an Audience Award in my country.


I wrote...

School of Ladies: The Debutantes

By Ennie Smith,

Book cover of School of Ladies: The Debutantes

What is my book about?

This is a story about six seventeen-year-old girls attending a charm school where they are preparing for the ball of their lives, as they try to find their perfect match in a true gentleman.

Six young ladies and a ball. The Coming Out ball where they can become princesses for an evening, and the charm school where they prepare for their big opportunity. A story about a seventeen-year-old girl, Emma Derkin, and five other young ladies. They all want the same thing - to find the perfect mate. It takes place a long time ago in the Victorian Era, when every girl grew up as a real lady.

Carry On

By Rainbow Rowell,

Book cover of Carry On

Carry On is my favorite take on the Chosen One trope yet, and the book that got me thinking about writing my own series with this trope. It handles magic and monsters with a beautiful weariness and mundanity: there’s nothing quite as compelling (or funny) as a jaded Chosen One. And it asks the questions that I keep coming back to in my own series: what is it that really makes a Chosen One, and more importantly, says who? The answer may never be easy, but it’s always interesting.


Who am I?

I’ve been an avid ready of fantasy for over twenty years, and I’ve spent nearly as long at least thinking about writing. In that time, I have definitely found some fantasy that wasn’t for me and some that really, really was. I like my fantasy fun and relatively light—I own nearly every Discworld book but could never get into George R. R. Martin. And my writing has naturally evolved around the same lines. I love a good joke or a well-timed pun almost as much as I love unexpected takes on fantasy tropes. 


I wrote...

I Am Not Your Chosen One

By Evelyn Benvie,

Book cover of I Am Not Your Chosen One

What is my book about?

Kell Hồ Sinh Porter is twenty-six years old and desperate to leave his unhappy life and his dead-end town. One night his wish is granted—though not in any way he would've imagined—and he finds himself in the semi-magical land of Allune where everyone thinks he’s the “Chosen One.”

Is this destiny or just bad luck? Magic is dying, the stars are calling him, and somehow this is his responsibility now? As if.

Of Curses and Kisses

By Sandhya Menon,

Book cover of Of Curses and Kisses

I wanted to include an unashamedly fun read for balance, and Of Curses and Kisses is absolute bucketloads of fun. A contemporary Beauty and the Beast retelling, it’s charmingly clever, funny, and vibrant, with its cast of diverse characters and its boarding school setting. If you’re ever looking for a hug in book form, look no further! 


Who am I?

In my previous role as a teacher, I often encountered teens who never, ever read outside of school – and hated having to read in school. Finding YA retellings of the classics became an indispensable tool for me in terms of not only linking the past with the present for the young adults in my classes, but also in terms of helping them see themselves in fiction, finding representation there, and discovering their own importance. It opened up whole worlds for all of us, and offered a pathway to a love of reading that I hope they will never forget!


I wrote...

Under My Skin

By Zoë Markham,

Book cover of Under My Skin

What is my book about?

What if we’re all monsters, on the inside?

Chloe was once a normal girl. Until the night of the car crash that nearly claimed her life. Now Chloe’s mother is dead, her father is a shell of the man he used to be and the secrets that had so carefully kept their family together are falling apart. A new start is all Chloe and her father can hope for, but when you think you’re no longer human how can you ever start pretending?

Getting Out

By Afton Brinkman,

Book cover of Getting Out

I chose this title because it’s the first story that made me fall in love with this genre. There is a deep sense of authenticity stemming from the reality of finding love after abuse. It helps the reader understand the true emotions of someone navigating through life after years of childhood abuse and trauma. Afton’s writing creates a beautiful story from beginning to end, while bringing the reader on an emotional roller coaster at the same time. This story left an impact on my heart and greatly influenced my writing as an author. 


Who am I?

I’m an avid reader by day and a passionate writer by night. I found myself writing the stories I couldn’t seem to find. This topic is one I know from first-hand experience. I’ve dealt with drug abuse and domestic abuse in my family from a young age and although painful to speak about it’s helped shape my career and help my readers find healing through my characters. I want my readers to be pulled in by a work of fiction while still having the knowledge that for me, it wasn’t. Abuse comes in all forms, shapes, and sizes, and I’ve realized it’s not forever. Even in the worst storms, the sun will always shine. 


I wrote...

Promise Me Always

By B.K. Leigh,

Book cover of Promise Me Always

What is my book about?

We made a pact, a promise all those years ago. He would be my protector and I would be his. We were only kids, but I knew without a shadow of a doubt I would love him for the rest of my life. He came into my life like a storm and left just as fast. I was beaten and bruised when he found me. Alone and broken when he left. 

A girl's journey from abuse to new love, and the boy who helped her heal.

Omar Rising

By Aisha Saeed,

Book cover of Omar Rising

This book is both the perfect mirror and window for young readers: it reflects back the typical challenges of adjusting to a new school and meeting the expectations of your family, while also opening up the world of private schools in Pakistan. Aisha Saeed weaves the cultural details into a familiar plot, making this book an excellent choice for building empathy and inspiration. I loved following the friendships of this group of boys who work together to find their place in their school, even when it means breaking the rules. 


Who am I?

I am an author and educator with a passion for justice. I once finished teaching a lesson on peaceful protest thirty minutes before the students at my middle school led a campus-wide walkout. Unlike me, who didn’t attend my first march until I was thirty, they were ready to speak up, following in the steps of the high schoolers from Parkland and the activists on Instagram. Born into the era of the Arab Spring, #MeToo, and Black Lives Matter, they saw the status quo as ripe for the challenge, their voices the anvil to topple it all. The books in this list will be inspiration for any young reader with this same passion for change.


I wrote...

Margie Kelly Breaks the Dress Code

By Bridget Farr,

Book cover of Margie Kelly Breaks the Dress Code

What is my book about?

With the right first-day-of-school outfit and her best friend, Daniela, by her side, Margie Kelly expected the first day of sixth grade to be perfect. It wasn’t.

Dress-coded during her first class, Margie soon sees sexism everywhere at her school and begins her own campaign to end it. But as Margie moves forward with her plans, she’s confronted with her own privilege and the knowledge that change requires more than a sign and an Instagram hashtag.

Every Heart a Doorway

By Seanan McGuire,

Book cover of Every Heart a Doorway

Even I was very young, every time I read a portal fantasy, I wondered how the kids (because so many portal fantasies are about kids) coped after they were sent back home and had to deal with their ordinary lives. After all, they’d been heroes or saviors or found true love or whatever. Now they had to go back to school and go to bed on time? Seanan McGuire did what I never thought of doing, and wrote a book that addresses this question. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a good tale in its own right, with a cast of lively characters, and an interesting setting. But Every Heart a Doorway is special to me because it addresses that “there’s no place like home” is a lot more complicated than it seems.


Who am I?

What happens when you start reading mythology when you’re so young that you don’t realize that, although the books are shelved in “non-fiction,” myths aren’t considered “real”? If you’re me, you grow up and start writing Science Fiction and Fantasy, because alternate realities seem just as valid as our consensual world. I think mythology is also why I like reading (and writing) books with characters who are not all human. I didn’t realize it until I finished coming up with my “five books” for this list, but there a lot of non-humans in there, and even the humans stretch the boundaries of what it is to be “normal.”  


I wrote...

Aurora Borealis Bridge

By Jane Lindskold,

Book cover of Aurora Borealis Bridge

What is my book about?

Just so you know, this story started in Library of the Sapphire WindWhen Peg, Meg, and Teg were summoned Over Where, vast and varied life experience (along with wide reading choices) helped them to adjust to a world where they were the only humans, magic was real, ships could fly, and reincarnation was a fact.

In the company of the “inquisitors,” Xerak, Grunwold, and Vereez, the mentors discovered within the Library of the Sapphire Wind revelations that transformed the young people’s pasts into a tangle of lies and half-truths. But there remain questions. By the time these are answered, the mentors and their young allies will deal with kidnappings, betrayal, arcane artifacts, romantic intrigues, and the inescapable reality that past lives cast long shadows. 

Stringing Rosaries

By Denise K. Lajimodiere,

Book cover of Stringing Rosaries: The History, the Unforgivable, and the Healing of Northern Plains American Indian Boarding School Survivors

For this book, Lajimodiere dedicated much time and effort over years to listen and record boarding school experiences of Native Americans, especially in the northern Plains, acknowledging different forms of schools that threatened Native American lives, families, and peoplehood. Her book encapsulates the voices of the survivors who testify of their struggles and those who did not survive the boarding school colonizing machine that sought to control Indigenous youth and their communities.

Lajimodiere epitomizes an activist scholar who has worked to trace as many Indian boarding schools in the United States as possible, and she has been foundational to the development of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition that is spearheading efforts for truth and healing from the adverse impacts and legacies of boarding schools.


Who am I?

My Diné (Navajo) family stories drew me into history including studies of Indigenous experiences in boarding schools. Two of my uncles were Navajo Code Talkers, and I loved asking them about their life stories. My uncle Albert Smith often spoke about his memories of the war. I was struck by the irony that he was sent to a boarding school as a child where the Navajo language was forbidden, and then he later relied on the language to protect his homelands. I then became interested in all my relatives' boarding school stories, including those of my father, which led me to write my first book The Earth Memory Compass about Diné school experiences. 


I wrote...

The Earth Memory Compass: Diné Landscapes and Education in the Twentieth Century

By Farina King,

Book cover of The Earth Memory Compass: Diné Landscapes and Education in the Twentieth Century

What is my book about?

The Diné, or Navajo, have their own ways of knowing and being in the world, a cultural identity linked to their homelands through ancestral memory. The Earth Memory Compass traces this tradition as it is imparted from generation to generation, and as it has been transformed, and often obscured, by modern modes of education. An autoethnography of sorts, the book follows Farina King’s search for her own Diné identity as she investigates the interconnections among Navajo students, their people, and Diné Bikéyah—or Navajo lands—across the twentieth century.

Critical to this story is how inextricably Indigenous education and experience is intertwined with American dynamics of power and history. As environmental catastrophes and struggles over resources sever the connections among peoplehood, land, and water, King's book holds out hope that the teachings, guidance, and knowledge of an earth memory compass still have the power to bring the people and the earth together.

Testimony

By Anita Shreve,

Book cover of Testimony

One of Anita Shreve’s lesser-known novels, I love Testimony for the contemporary conundrum it introduces. No more sweeping things under the rug; administrations must deal with transgressions in a public manner. In Testimony, students at another New England boarding school behave badly, capturing a lewd act on film. No matter how you code it, a crime has been committed, and the school must deal with it.

While the novel explores multiple points of view, the perspective of the accused student’s mother had the greatest effect on me: “You stand up… You get into your car and back out of your driveway and make the turn onto the street and immediately a new set of pictures darts in front of you like small boys on bicycles. Rob in a helmet on a skateboard… A boy with a bad haircut holding up his Cub Scout handbook…” The second-person technique wonderfully conveys…


Who am I?

I’m an award-winning author of two novels, the most recent of which, The Nine, is set on a fictional New England boarding school campus. Although a secret society’s antics and a scandal on campus keeps readers turning the page, at the heart of the novel is the evolution of a mother-son relationship. Even before my three children began considering boarding schools, I was a fan of the campus novel. Think classics like A Separate Peace or Catcher in the Rye. My fascination surrounding these little microcosms—their ideals, how they self-govern, who holds power—only increased after experiencing their weird and wily ways as a mother. 


I wrote...

The Nine

By Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg,

Book cover of The Nine

What is my book about?

When well-meaning helicopter mom Hannah Webber enrolls her brilliant son and the center of her world, Sam, into the boarding school of her dreams, neither of them is prepared for what awaits: an illicit underworld where decades of privileged conspiracy threaten not only Sam but also their fragile family.

Both a coming-of-age novel and a portrait of an evolving mother-son relationship, The Nine is the story of a young man who chooses to expose a corrupt world operating under its own set of rules—even if it means jeopardizing his mother’s hopes and dreams.

Looking for Alaska

By John Green,

Book cover of Looking for Alaska

My long-time favorite writer, John Green, is another Swiftie! In 2014, after he posted on social media about her 1989 album, Taylor Swift took to Tumblr to proclaim that John Green was (also) her favorite author. While John is most well-known for The Fault in Our Stars (or more recently, his TikTok), Looking for Alaska, his debut, is always my recommendation. Looking For Alaska is packed with teenage nostalgia that hits you like a gut punch. "Sad, Beautiful, Tragic" for bookworms. I read it early on in high school and it sparked a literary awakening within me. I realized that books can hold deeper, philosophical meaning; that by diving deep and soaking it all in, I could learn more about myself and this crazy thing we call reality. 


Who am I?

Kristina Parro is a long-time Taylor Swift fan who dove deep into the stories and lyrics of folklore to help her overcome the tumultuous period she spent as a front-line healthcare worker during the pandemic. She discovered layers of deep meaning and surprising connections in the album, as well as throughout Taylor’s entire collection, that led her down a rabbit hole of her own. A quest that brought her to a more enlightened state of being. Lucky is Parro’s first novel. She's currently working on another adult-fiction manuscript. You can also find her hosting a live, weekly show on Instagram, during which she has insightful conversations with authors, artists, thinkers, creatives, and Taylor Swift fans! 


I wrote...

Lucky: A Novel

By Kristina Parro,

Book cover of Lucky: A Novel

What is my book about?

Calling all Swifties, we found a must-add to your TBR! folklore is a collection of songs and stories from singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. In the album’s primer, Taylor urges fans, “now it’s up to you to pass them down.” Kristina Parro did just that in her novel, Lucky, which was inspired by folklore and the incredible true story of Standard Oil heiress Rebekah Harkness. In Lucky, readers join Rhea Harmonía, America’s favorite pop star, as she learns the story of Rebekah Harkness and tumbles down the rabbit-hole, on a journey through history, philosophy, math, music, mythology, and time. Keep your eyes peeled for “Easter Eggs” and allusions to Swift’s entire discography hidden throughout the novel!

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