51 books directly related to boarding schools 📚

All 51 boarding school books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Anne of Avonlea

By Lucy Maud Montgomery,

Book cover of Anne of Avonlea

Why this book?

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.


Abigail

By Magda Szabo, Len Rix (translator),

Book cover of Abigail

Why this book?

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.


Carry On

By Rainbow Rowell,

Book cover of Carry On

Why this book?

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.


Of Curses and Kisses

By Sandhya Menon,

Book cover of Of Curses and Kisses

Why this book?

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! 


Mystery of Black Hollow Lane

By Julia Nobel,

Book cover of Mystery of Black Hollow Lane

Why this book?

This story has so many delicious ingredients—ancient boarding schools, secret societies, enigmatic notes slipped into pockets, young allies banding together against a powerful enemy—and they all combine to make the kind of book that classic mystery fans will devour.  


Getting Out

By Afton Brinkman,

Book cover of Getting Out

Why this book?

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. 


Omar Rising

By Aisha Saeed,

Book cover of Omar Rising

Why this book?

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. 


Every Heart a Doorway

By Seanan McGuire,

Book cover of Every Heart a Doorway

Why this book?

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.


A Great and Terrible Beauty

By Libba Bray,

Book cover of A Great and Terrible Beauty

Why this book?

This book is the first in a trilogy by Libba Bray. I read it when I was a teenager and it made me want to write stories that made people feel, that brought their emotions to life! The story follows a girl (Gemma) whose life gets turned upside and she has to figure out what comes next. There’s magic and emotions and otherworldly happenings in this tale. I think many people, teenagers, and adults, can relate to struggling to find their place in the world. I know I do! 


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

By Denise Lajimodiere,

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

Why this book?

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.


A Little Princess

By Frances Hodgson Burnett,

Book cover of A Little Princess

Why this book?

I read A Little Princess when I was only ten, with no idea that it was a classic. All I knew was that I totally identified with Sarah, the protagonist, as she was buffeted by the vicissitudes of fortune. The issues of class portrayed in this book were already on my young mind, since I grew up in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the Bronx but also spent a lot of time in the wealthy environs of Manhattan and the contrast was immense. I was impressed by Sarah’s resilience and her ability to empathize with others in spite of the awful hand that had been dealt to her.


Testimony

By Anita Shreve,

Book cover of Testimony

Why this book?

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 a worried mother’s out-of-body experience as she rushes to be by her child’s side, a child she is furious with, but loves nonetheless.


Looking for Alaska

By John Green,

Book cover of Looking for Alaska

Why this book?

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. 


Breathless

By Jessica Warman,

Book cover of Breathless

Why this book?

Breathless is Warman’s first full-length novel, perhaps lesser known than some of her others, and it’s a brilliant example of coming to age. Warman’s style is propulsive and character-driven. Katie, often overlooked due to the attention her older brother requires, is forced to make her own way in the world. She attends boarding school and finds family among people to whom she has no biological relation.

I first met Warman while earning a master’s degree in writing alongside her.  Needless to say, I learned as much from her as from our instructors. Her ability to throw a reader into immediate conflict, as well as her talent to put one at ease, is notable—especially here, where her young protagonist navigates a crooked path to the promise of happiness.


Bound in Flame

By Katherine Kayne,

Book cover of Bound in Flame

Why this book?

I truly enjoy historical fiction that presents a culture or era from a different point of view. This one is set in early twentieth-century Hawaii. It features a girl, Letty, returning from a boarding school on the mainland. Letty’s devoted to animals, and she is one of the first female veterinarians in history. She jumps into the ocean to save a horse. Her healing powers are strengthened by her connection to the ancient Hawaiian land. The undercurrent of power gives this novel a fantasy feel, but it doesn’t lose its historical aspect. Then Letty learns the price of her healing power—her kisses can kill. Even worse, she’s attracted to the man who owns the horse she saved. 


On A Sunbeam

By Tillie Walden,

Book cover of On A Sunbeam

Why this book?

So, I’m stretching the definition of “dystopia” here, but I’ll use any excuse to tout this gorgeous graphic novel. It’s about a young crew who travel around in a goldfish-shaped craft fixing up free-floating space ruins until embarking on a mission to help one member reconnect with a lost love. My elementary school best friend and I bonded over drawing comics and On A Sunbeam made me wonder what might have been if we never stopped. 


Gentlemen and Players

By Joanne Harris,

Book cover of Gentlemen and Players

Why this book?

What school doesn’t have at least a couple of skeletons in the closet? The venerable St. Oswald’s is no different. What I love about this psychological thriller is that it pulls no punches about the dark side of boarding school. It explores my favorite literary themes: class warfare, family secrets, and identity, and masterfully unravels a complicated plot. The setting of St. Oswald’s, like all the best academic novels, functions as a looming, dangerous character in itself.


The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

By E. Lockhart,

Book cover of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

Why this book?

Another book about a misfit at a US boarding school. Frankie, our heroine, is sharp, possibly a criminal mastermind, and an ugly duckling turned pretty. At her school–Alabaster Prep–she gets in with a group of older boys and starts to undermine their secret prank society by outdoing them all, with (un)predictably disastrous consequences. This book is so much fun; adults and adolescents alike will love it. 


The Grounding of Group Six

By Julian F. Thompson,

Book cover of The Grounding of Group Six

Why this book?

This is an obscure book you’ve probably never heard of from the 80s, but trust me here. (And yes, it’s set at a boarding school.) In this story, the kids assigned to group 6 are part of a secret society not of their own choosing. Their parents have sent them there to get rid of them. Permanently. With the help of their teacher, they escape to the wilderness to figure out how to survive


Down Among the Sticks and Bones

By Seanan McGuire,

Book cover of Down Among the Sticks and Bones

Why this book?

This slim novel is actually the second in McGuire’s Wayward Children series, which I wholeheartedly recommend in its entirety. The premise: a school for teenagers who once found secret, magical doors to other worlds when they were younger—and who, for various reasons, are sent back from those worlds to ours again. I particularly loved Jack, the burgeoning mad scientist sister in Down Among the Sticks and Bones, as well as her complicated relationship with her sister, Jill. I’m also a big fan of unique worlds and high-concept premises, and McGuire’s series absolutely checks both of those boxes!


Belzhar

By Meg Wolitzer,

Book cover of Belzhar

Why this book?

Fifteen-year-old Jam’s boyfriend has died, and she’s been sent to the Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school. Assigned to a selective class called Special Topics in English, Jam and the other struggling students discover that a journal-writing assignment transports them to a place where past trauma seems to be undone and the dead are returned to the ones they love. But as Jam spends more and more time in a static version of her boyfriend’s afterlife, she must figure out if she should hold on to what she once had or reach for something else. Belzhar is twisty tale of magical realism that I will never stop thinking about.

“Everyone has something to say. But not everyone can bear to say it. Your job is to find a way.” 


A Study in Charlotte

By Brittany Cavallaro,

Book cover of A Study in Charlotte

Why this book?

I love anything Sherlock Holmes. So a YA teen detective story with the present-day descendants of Sherlock Holmes with mysterious deaths to solve? The title alone got me, then when I read the blurb, I was on it. Sherlock Holmes’ great great great granddaughter, Charlotte Holmes, already a brilliant sleuth consulting with Scotland Yard and Jamie Watson, the great great great grandson of John Watson are in America where they have ended up in the same boarding school. When a student dies under mysterious circumstances, Jamie and Charlotte’s paths cross, throwing them together, and they can only trust each other in a world where the enemy lurks very close… If I was a fish and you wanted to catch me, put this book on a hook and dangle it.


New Girl

By Paige Harbison,

Book cover of New Girl

Why this book?

I do have a real penchant for dark stories and thrillers that ooze suspense and intrigue and Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca is one of the best for that. I haven’t come across many stories that have adapted this so I was definitely interested in that. New Girl is a suspenseful adaptation of this classic. After the mysterious disappearance of an elite school’s most popular student, the new girl, who remains unnamed through most of the story, finds herself taking Becca’s place within the school and her friendship groups but is always aware she’ll never be able to escape her shadow. This is also a dual POV book. I enjoy both writing and reading from this perspective. This is an excellent adaptation of this mysterious classic.


Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention

By Katherine Ellison,

Book cover of Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention

Why this book?

Katherine Ellison is a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter. When she and her pre-teen son were both diagnosed with ADHD in the same year it became her personal and professional mission to find out as much as she could about this increasingly common diagnosis. Anyone who knows and loves someone who’s been diagnosed with ADHD would do well to read this book as a guide through the often bewildering landscape of ADHD treatments. As serious and personal as Buzz is, Ellison is a great writer and her memoir is equal parts science, expert interviews and analysis, parenting angst, and humor.


They Called It Prairie Light: The Story of Chilocco Indian School

By K. Tsianina Lomawaima,

Book cover of They Called It Prairie Light: The Story of Chilocco Indian School

Why this book?

As soon as I read Lomawaima’s They Called it Prairie Light, I knew that I wanted to work with oral history among my Diné relatives and Native American communities to better understand their voices and perspectives of Indian boarding schools. Lomawaima’s book brought together oral histories and stories that she gathered from her father and relationships that she sustained with former boarding school students of the Chilocco Indian School. She offers a platform for boarding school students to tell their own stories; and, most importantly, she exemplified how to do such significant work.


Education Beyond the Mesas: Hopi Students at Sherman Institute, 1902-1929

By Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert,

Book cover of Education Beyond the Mesas: Hopi Students at Sherman Institute, 1902-1929

Why this book?

Gilbert worked closely with his Hopi people and nation on this book, and he demonstrates how a book can take different forms such as a documentary film, blog, and other more publicly accessible projects. In his book, Gilbert shows how to apply Indigenous methodologies and intellectual processes to understand Indigenous perspectives of boarding schools. He contextualizes Indian boarding school experiences as part of larger historical dynamics and a sense of being for Hopi who have faced and navigated challenges of colonialism for generations.


Changeling

By Molly Harper,

Book cover of Changeling

Why this book?

Also a YA/Teen historical fantasy story with magic. It reminds me of a little Harry Potter in girl version that I like. It is entertaining and refreshing. The 14-year-old Sarah Smith has a secret. That she's not a member of Guardians the noble magical class that now rules the world. But as one of the non-magical Snipes who possesses magic, her secret must be kept so that she—and her family—can survive. So she has to blend in with the magical class. And attend school for wealthy magical ladies.


Love Is Blind

By William Boyd,

Book cover of Love Is Blind

Why this book?

Growing up, my brother and I were a pigeon pair, almost like twins. He was a sensitive boy who wore glasses and played the piano beautifully. Boarding school thumped all that out of him and forced him along a different path. The central character of this novel echoed this dynamic, drawing Brodie Moncur, the Scottish piano tuner, straight to my heart. Despite Brodie’s recurring bouts of tuberculosis and the violence of his bullying family, he gently pursues Lika Blum, a beautiful Russian singer, across 19th-century Europe. The passion and revenge meted out on this gentle soul cannot deaden his rapture for Lika. He knows that he is a man with limited time on his hands who is “trapped in a maddening cycle of strange unhappiness.”


Daughter of Smoke & Bone

By Laini Taylor,

Book cover of Daughter of Smoke & Bone

Why this book?

This is a brilliant urban fantasy about 17-year-old Karou, a spunky blue-haired teenager who lives with a foot in two worlds – our own, and one inhabited by all manner of monsters, good and mad. Amidst the wreckage of an ongoing war, Karou finds love with the angelic Akiva, the two fast becoming a kind of Romeo & Juliet in this sophisticated tale full of mythology and magic, which moves seamlessly from the streets of Prague to an intricate otherworld of the author’s own creation, without missing a step. It’s epic and swoony, and utterly unputdownable! 


First: Get Caught, A Stalker's Guide to Love

By Crystal Liechty,

Book cover of First: Get Caught, A Stalker's Guide to Love

Why this book?

What if you were secretly sketching the cutest boy in school and he accidentally found your notebook? First: Get Caught, A Stalkers Guide to Love tackles this very question. Abigail doesn’t mean to be a stalker, but the whole situation places her in an adorably hilarious situation. I loved that when it came to the true romance of this book, Ben fell for her first. He wasn’t just attracted to her, he fell for her—as she was. I loved that Ben was Korean and we really got to see inside his head just as much as we got to see Abigail. Truly one of my favorite all-time reads.


In the Wild Light

By Jeff Zentner,

Book cover of In the Wild Light

Why this book?

Zentner hooked me on the first page with his poetic writing style and mastery of words. Not only is In the Wild Light a beauty to read, but it is a lovely story of friends helping each other survive family obligations and severe poverty. Cash and his friend, Delaney live in a small Appalachian town in Tennessee where their school and community offer limited opportunities. When both are awarded scholarships to a prestigious high school, Cash must decide between leaving his aging grandparents or helping Delaney climb out of poverty. I loved how Zentner emphasized Cash and Delaney’s compassion and avoided typical teen stereotypes. 


Behind the Gates: Tomorrow Girls

By Eva Gray,

Book cover of Behind the Gates: Tomorrow Girls

Why this book?

I enjoyed this series because it was a well-written, fast-paced, interesting, clean story that I was happy to share with my children (especially my daughters). Each of the four books follows the perspective of one of the four main characters, and all of these girls are strong, loyal, and have a clear sense of right and wrong. They are not ashamed to be “good,” which is a refreshing find in dystopian futures!


Muzungu: A Rhodesian Testament

By Rod Madocks,

Book cover of Muzungu: A Rhodesian Testament

Why this book?

I found this new memoir riveting partly because it was so different from my own life experiences. My favourite sections were about the author's childhood in Northern Rhodesia [which became Zambia on independence]. Rod Madocks's childhood years seemed to structure his life for better and worse: leaving Zambia at the age of thirteen to be sent to boarding school in England has an increasingly negative effect for years to come but there are some humorous aspects. I was also deeply drawn to the portraits of the author’s parents as elderly people which was poignant after I as the reader had got to know them so well in the descriptions of his childhood. Rod Madocks is a wordsmith supreme—I hope this book becomes a classic.


Gallant

By V.E. Schwab,

Book cover of Gallant

Why this book?

I've always loved V.E. Schwab's writing and the evocative ways she weaves words. In this book we follow Olivia Prior a mute girl who grew up in Merilance School for Girls, and all she has of her past is her mother’s journal—which seems to unravel into madness. The book starts with us seeing firsthand how the other girls torment her due to her lack of speech, and others in position to help, like the nuns, don't bother learning her sign language. Since Olivia lives a pretty terrifying life as a homeless orphan, who sees ghouls, this additional barrier to communication is one more insurmountable obstacle in her already hard life. No wonder she's willing to put up with a lot to find a home.


Never Let Me Go

By Kazuo Ishiguro,

Book cover of Never Let Me Go

Why this book?

Although mostly set in a mysterious boarding school called Hailsham, this novel isn’t about the school, or even what happened there. It’s set in a grim alternative version of England and isn’t for the faint-hearted (no pun intended). 

What a boarding school does to a child is seal them off from ‘real life’ and in this case, Hailsham represents a strange sort of safety; and the real world is devastatingly lethal for the narrator Kathy and her friends Ruth and Tommie.


Wilder Girls

By Rory Power,

Book cover of Wilder Girls

Why this book?

In Wilder Girls, a bizarre, unprecedented plague called the Tox has infested an island home to an all-girls boarding school. The Tox causes those it infects to mutate in gruesome ways—growing gills, claws, an extra spine, et cetera. The schoolgirls and remaining sparse crew of staff members have developed a system of survival, but when one girl goes missing and her friend determines to find her, everything is thrown into chaos.

This book will grip you hard from the first sentence, sink its teeth into you, shake you around, then have you gasping for air on the floor by the time you hit the last page. Seriously, this is an insane, intense ride, perfect for any fan of weird fiction and body horror. (That’s me.)


Anna and the French Kiss

By Stephanie Perkins,

Book cover of Anna and the French Kiss

Why this book?

This is another of my favorite reads. I read it twice and found it totally irresistible, due to the fact that I am drawn to all things French, having spent a considerable amount of time in Paris to do research for some of my novels. I found this book to have engaging characters, stunning scenery (The School of America in Paris), a terrific story, and a beautiful romance. The main character Anna is forced to go to SOAP by her parents, though she would rather stay in Atlanta and spend her senior year with her friends and possible boyfriend. We’re sure glad that she ended up changing her mind and crossing the Atlantic. The ending is absolutely amazing and memorable! 


Hedgewitch

By Skye McKenna,

Book cover of Hedgewitch

Why this book?

I was lucky enough to be given an advance copy of this book written by debut author, Skye Mackenna and I instantly fell in love with the characters and the story. Perfect reading for middle-grade readers who like longer, more challenging magic books. It is set in a world similar to ours which also has witches, scary fairies, goblins, and talking animals. Cassie, the heroine, sets out to discover why her mother disappeared seven years ago and in the process starts a new life, makes new friends (not least the wonderful talking cat, Montague), learns more about her witch-family heritage, and encounters terrifying faeries. This is the first book in the Hedgewitch series and is due to be published in 2022 - I can’t wait to read the rest!


Max and the Millions

By Ross Montgomery,

Book cover of Max and the Millions

Why this book?

I want to live inside Ross Montgomery’s head. It seems full of magical people and places, including a school janitor’s room filled with huge feuding civilizations! The story hops masterfully from the school janitor to the tyrannical Headmaster to the story’s brilliant ten-year-old protagonist Max, without missing a beat. Max is deaf, which doesn’t need to be an issue, if people can just make a few small accommodations to help him fit in. But, instead, the horrible Head treats him like some kind of strange school mascot, constantly singling him out for special attention.

Max and the Millions seamlessly combines action, mystery, struggles with hearing aids, and a warning about the abuse of power. All with a sense of the surreal that will have you sniggering throughout.

“Max was hiding in a cupboard
He usually hid in the toilets, but they’d all exploded that morning – again – and Mr. Darrow still hadn’t fixed them.”


The Name of the Star

By Maureen Johnson,

Book cover of The Name of the Star

Why this book?

Many YA readers will be familiar with Maureen Johnson’s homerun success with the Truly, Devious series, but perhaps not have heard of her earlier Shades of London series. Anyone who loves ghostly tales and admires Johnson’s quirky, rock-solid prose should give The Name of the Star a read, stat.

This is the book equivalent of my spirit animal. I'm actually slightly alarmed at how closely Maureen Johnson's fantastic novel and my own interests align. Serial killers, ghosts, boarding schools--every element is wonderfully presented, and always with Johnson’s signature, humorous touch. Just perfect.


Witch Week

By Diana Wynne Jones,

Book cover of Witch Week

Why this book?

Diana Wynne Jones was the author who made me want to be a writer, and I can't recommend her highly enough. Witch Week might seem an unconventional choice for a list about dystopian fiction—it’s a children’s fantasy novel set in a boarding school—but if you’re expecting early Harry Potter, you’ll be chillingly surprised. Set in an alternate 80s Britain where suspected witches are still burnt at the stake, this story is dystopic to its bones. What I love about it is how unflinchingly dark it gets. It doesn’t shy away from the raw, existential terror of living in a society that hates you for how you were born: there’s one scene in particular that gives me a shiver whenever I think about it.


Almost English

By Charlotte Mendelson,

Book cover of Almost English

Why this book?

Marina is another scholarship girl (there’s a theme here) trying to escape her messy family life, but from the get-go, she feels like an outsider at her new boarding school, Coombe Abbey. At this school, everyone’s given a cruel nickname, but even worse is being so invisible you don’t have a nickname at all. Marina doesn’t cope well at all, and one of my favourite hilarious episodes is when she visits the beautiful, drafty, impossibly cool home of her boyfriend and has mortifying sex and a terrifying night-time poo. The ending had me in tears (but from laughter and sadness).


The Moth Diaries

By Rachel Klein,

Book cover of The Moth Diaries

Why this book?

I love a novel that is wholly made of collated diary entries. I am an avid journal-keeper, and understand the deep, dark secrets that girls put between those pages. And I don’t even have a vampire living next door. Unlike the author of this delightful tome. She inhabits a dorm room at an elite boarding school and shares a friendship bordering on obsession with her long-time friend, Lucy (Lucy Westenra vibes, anyone?). Everything is perfect between the pair until the new girl arrives. Ernessa is a mysterious girl that our narrator is convinced is a vampire. Whether she is… you’ll have to read for yourself. What got me here: the obsessive friendship between girls, the diary format—so intimate and close—and the distinctly gothic feel. 


When the Legends Die

By Hal Borland,

Book cover of When the Legends Die

Why this book?

When Ute Native American, Thomas Black Bull, is orphaned, he’s forced into a white boarding school aiming to “civilize” him by erasing every trace of his heritage, language, customs and culture. The novel is a graphic picture of what happened historically to so many Native American youths, something recently revealed with previously unknown details—a horrifying scenario. My feelings of sympathy, empathy ,and fear for young Tom grew with each page. I felt hopeless, alienated ,and angry right along with him in his struggle to break free and return to his own beliefs. The novel evoked my fury at the attempt to erase a beautiful culture because it is “different.” I love how relevant this book is, though it was written decades ago. It is a perfect way to blend the past with the present for young students.


Chocolates for Breakfast: A Novel

By Pamela Moore,

Book cover of Chocolates for Breakfast: A Novel

Why this book?

Chocolates for Breakfast was frequently compared to Bonjour Tristesse and Moore was called “the American Sagan.” Like Sagan, Moore was only eighteen when she wrote the bestselling novel. Written in the third person, it tells the story of a young woman’s sexual exploration and her feelings of depression. Courtney, a child of divorce, moves from her posh Connecticut boarding school to Beverly Hills when her depression keeps her from performing at school. She grapples with her mother, a down-on-her-heels alcoholic actress; explores her sexuality with both a gay male actor and an older straight manager in Hollywood; then relocates to New York where she drifts through cocktail parties, having affairs, until her best friend Janet commits suicide. Like Bonjour Tristesse, the novel flirts with existentialism but ultimately adopts a more hopeful tone as Courtney matures and aims to create meaning in her life.


The Runaway Bunny

By Margaret Wise Brown, Clement Hurd (illustrator),

Book cover of The Runaway Bunny

Why this book?

As a veteran preschool teacher, parent and grandparent, I have found this amazing rhythmic tale of hide and seek to skillfully convey to toddlers and preschoolers, the unconditional love a mother has for her child. Young children do understand and embrace this book’s age-appropriate loving, reassuring words and pictures: “If you run away, I will run after you. For you are my little bunny.” The lesson learned...They, too, can count on their steadfast mother to always have their back, no matter how they choose to test their relationship. This is a fabulous example of how a picture book can effectively communicate words and actions while serving to initiate more discussion with the child regarding his own behavior and feelings.


Plain Bad Heroines

By Emily M. Danforth, Sara Lautman (illustrator),

Book cover of Plain Bad Heroines

Why this book?

Another secret society lies at the heart of Plain Bad Heroines, a novel I love for its mix of moody darkness and incisive wit. Picture Brookhants, a long-abandoned boarding school for girls in Little Compton, Rhode Island, haunted by the legends of obsessions and secret rites and yes, death. The book weaves together two narratives: one tracing the development of deep friendships, jealousies, and love triangles at Brookharts in the early 1900s, the other picking up a century later as a Hollywood film crew travels to the school to make a movie inspired by its macabre history.

New England old-money types come face to face with A-list celebrities and social media influencers—and have more in common than you would think. While I enjoyed this book’s characters and setting immensely, I would have read Plain Bad Heroines for the language alone. Full of punch and wit, it is a courageous piece of writing, a six-hundred-word novel, written with a nod to the gothic, harkening Mary Shelley, Emily Brontë, and George Eliot in its omniscient voice and unabashedly addressing the reader throughout. Who can’t applaud an author like Emily M. Danforth for taking all that on!


This Beautiful Life

By Helen Schulman,

Book cover of This Beautiful Life

Why this book?

A painful examination of all that’s at stake when kids make bad decisions, This Beautiful Life made me reflect on the pressure contemporary kids feel to be beyond reproach while growing up amid the instant connectivity and permanent consequences of the internet age. Like Testimony, Schulman’s novel begins with a video, this time one whose ramifications are amplified and complicated as it goes viral in a matter of hours.

A gripping early scene dramatizes the split second when fifteen-year-old Jake Bergamot makes the fateful choice to forward a video he’s received to a friend. The scandal that ensues threatens not only Jake, but his entire family’s “beautiful life.” Rather than a boarding school, this novel is set at an elite Manhattan private school where the social strata among parents are even more painfully felt. As the story unfolds, this book takes readers even deeper into the mom’s head—a delightful place where wit and satire know no bounds—and explores the maternal experience that what happens to our children, happens to us as well.


Slayer, 1

By Kiersten White,

Book cover of Slayer, 1

Why this book?

This is literally a Buffyverse novel, set after the events of the last series, when Willow has cast her spell to make Potentials into Slayers. The main character is Nina, a British daughter of a watcher, who has some hard choices to make. I have enjoyed Kiersten White’s work since I read Paranormalcy many years ago. She has a great sense of humour and writes characters who feel very real and will stay with you for a long time.  


Sevenoaks

By Kevin Sacco,

Book cover of Sevenoaks

Why this book?

I met Kevin Sacco when he was an advertising storyboard artist. Kevin knew how to sell the story of an ad simply and dramatically in a series of graphic panels with an economy of words. In Sevenoaks, I see the same brain at work. His book is based on his life: a ‘60s-era New York City high school kid sent to an elite private school outside London. Sacco’s distinctive elongated and restrained figures, beautifully drawn geometric and airy cityscapes, and genial pace can lull one into a sense of calm, so that his moments of high and even magical drama slice more deeply into the emotions. One might be surprised to discover an unexpected tear.


The Light Between Worlds

By Laura E. Weymouth,

Book cover of The Light Between Worlds

Why this book?

One night, during a Blitzkrieg attack on London, the Hapwell siblings are whisked away to the fantastical Woodlands. There they spend the next several years helping the great stag Cervus defend Palace Beautiful. But it’s when the siblings return to their own world that their real troubles begin. Pining for the Woodlands debilitates Evelyn, the youngest Hapwell, and she can no longer navigate life at boarding school or maintain relationships. Can her older sister Philippa stop Evelyn from falling to pieces, all while battling her own demons? This beautiful narrative takes us deep into the complexity of grief and guilt, and explores the heartbreak of trying to rescue a loved one who doesn’t want help.