When I Was YA: The Jessica Darling Series

Once upon a time, in the early 2000s, the YA genre was pretty limited. We had decades old Judy Blume books (which I am not knocking FYI), the saccharinely tragic love stories of Lurlene McDaniel (I never got to read them because they were always checked out) a few soapy series that put Gossip Girl to shame, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, (which wasn’t even shelved as YA at the time) and the magically pretentious works of Francesca Lia Block.

I read them all—except of McDaniel—with abandon, but I never saw myself on those pages. All of the teens were too worldly, too pretty, too troubled, too tragic etc. I never saw honestly rendered awkwardness, or anxiety, or anyone who ever seemed even a little bit real in those YA novels. That is, until I met the awesome Jessica Darling.

I recently started rereading these books and while, if I stumbled across them today there is a distinct chance that I wouldn’t like them (they’re kind of problematic…or like really problematic), I read them first at a time when I deeply connected with Jessica Darling. I mean I too had a best friend move away in high school, leaving me to form superficial connections with far inferior “social survival friends”. I also had a Marcus Flutie type dude who top up too much of my brain. But mostly I felt a kinship with Jess because like her, I overthink everything. In short the premise of the books was relatable AF.

The Jessica Darling series written by Megan McCafferty, (who’s also written the pretty interesting dystopian YA series Bumped/Thumped) introduces the world to Jessica Darling a clever, funny, moody, and definitely not always nice sixteen year old dealing with the devastation of her best friend moving away right in the middle of high school, the ups and downs of her feelings for her complicated first love, and her endlessly frustrating family.

I loved (and still love) Jessica because she’s real to me. She’s not “troubled”, but she is deeply flawed and tartly funny. Her problems are the same ones that many teens/young adults go through. It’s her approach to the world that makes her special rather than her circumstances. Her “adventures” are commonplace and everyday. Her friends and family are exaggerated in such an honest adolescent way which makes them hilarious and charming to the reader.

Very little in this series rings false which is why it’s such a powerful time machine for me. As a relic of the early 2000s it lacks the ubiquity of cellphones (Hope and Jessica email each other quite a lot, but very little if any cellphone action) we see today, that and references to Y2K really remind me of my teen years. But ultimately it’s the honesty and humor of the writing brings me back to when I was that age and that time in my life.

McCafferty treated her devoted readers to five installments that took Jessica from a teen in high school to a young adult dealing with her first job out of college. All the while she struggles with her family, friends, relationships and life in general in a way that while familiar is fun and engaging.

Today young adults and teens have a wide variety of unique characters and interesting impactful stories to choose from, but take it from one of your elders (me… I’m an old): READ THIS SERIES.

Seriously, go read… You, Yes You.


IIIIIII’m BaaaAAAaaack!

Hey Readers! I’m back in the Garret!

So toward the end of September, I hinted at the fact that I was feeling more depressed than usual. I thought I was on an upswing toward the end of October and I really thought I’d be back to reading and posting and being a generally active–if extremely minor–member of the online book community… Well you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men and women suffering from depression…

Things went awry.

Things got worse at the end of October. I was very blue and life didn’t wait for me to catch up, work got crazy, family got crazy, money stuff got crazy and I was left without a single spoon at the end of most days. I laid in the dark a lot, I “watched” the entire four seasons of Younger about six times on Hulu before switching over to my old depression standby New Girl reruns on Netflix. I didn’t read much, I certainly didn’t write much… I made an ill-fated attempt at NaNoWriMo that only left me feeling shittier about myself.Basically, I ended up overwhelmed to the point where even thinking about this blog and my other nonessential life stuff made me breakdown in a panic or a fit of sobs.

So I took a break.

I gave myself permission to press pause on the unnecessary stresses in my life, and pick them back up when I was feeling up to it. And guess what? I’m now feeling “up to it”. Work has calmed down for the moment–though I did just take on a temporary part-time gig directing a play–and I’m feeling a bit more, up and at’em than I have been in a long while.  

I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeves to keep me from hitting slumps too hard,namely the Bookriot Read Harder Challenge and my new ‘Read the Books I Already Own’ philosophy. I just have to keep at the whole updating this blog thing…but I also have to give myself permission to hit pause occasionally.

So, thank you to those of you who have stuck with me. I’m hoping to bring you some actual decent bookish content soon!

Sbooktober Sbooktacular Reading Adventure TBR

Well, I’m back at it with another October Readathon. This week I have considerably more time to dedicate to it, so I think the results will be better.

Readathon: Sbooktacular Reading Adventure 

When: 10/25-10/31

Who: Novel Thoughts



Team: SbookyVampire


Trick-Or-Treat: Book of My Choosing:

Book Set in the Past/ Book With Magic:

Book With Orange on the Cover:

Read After the Sunsets/Dark in the Title 


It’s overly ambitious, but next month is NaNoWriMo so I probably won’t be reading as much (you know until I realize that there is no way I’m making it to 50,000 words and give up) and need to take advantage of this week.

What are you reading for Halloween?

Spookathon Wrap-Up

Well Spookathon is over and I didn’t complete it… I got through 3 of 5 challenges.

Thriller: In a Dark, Dark Wood Ruth Ware 

It was a pretty good, pretty quick read. The beginning and middle were really strong, but as many reviews have said, that ending can be seen from a mile away. 

Spooky Word in the Title: Before the Devil Breaks You Libba Bray

I’m mixed on this one… just like the third Gemma Doyle book this one amps up the crazy. There were elements I LOVED and elements I hated… and that spot in the middle of the book where everyone gets super horny for no reason, I laughed out loud. But I also cried… ultimately I gave it a 4 out of 5.

Based on a Childhood Fear: There’s Someone Inside Your House Stephanie Perkins

Again, this was middle of the road for me. I love the homage to 90s slasher movies, there’s good representation, and the killer’s MO is cool and original. But there was a little too much focus on the romance/making out front for my taste… more horror less horny please. 
I’m moving on to the Sbooktober Sbooktacular Reading Adventure readathon that starts on Wednesday the 25. Check back for my unreasonable unrealistic TBR tomorrow!

Until then, stay spooky.

October Owlcrate Unboxing AND a Spookathon Update

Well it’s THAT time of the month again… the time when I stumble home from work to find a treat on my doorstep: 


October’s Theme: Find Me in the Forest

I was pumped for the theme because I love woodsy rustic aesthetics and I had a really good feeling what the book would be (I was right). I was excited to hear that there would be a candle and a mug… so without further ado…

This coaster Kristin Askland coaster is easily my favorite item! I love the art style, foxes are my favorite animal and it’s a nice Thoreau quote.

An In the Wick of Time candle based on The Raven Cycle series… a series I DNFed hardcore. But it smells pretty. 

Loose leaf tea from Riddles Tea Shoppe

The much buzzed about Harry Potter mug…  I was slightly disappointed in it. It’s not really my taste and I actually prefer the design of the box… oh well, I’ll still use it. 

A Princess Mononoke art print by Audra Auclair.

Adorable magnetic bookmark from Craftedvan. I love them. 

Finally, THE BOOK! Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore. I knew this would be the book, and I’m so excited!

Here’s the whole thing. It’s a nice box with some really great things in it. I was a little underwhelmed by the mug and candle but I love everything else.

I did skip November’s box because I think I know the book and none of the fandoms mentioned appeal to me.



Started but will probably DNF it:

I’ve given it 75 pages and it’s just doing nothing for me… I’m taking a break from it for now. 

Currently Reading 

I love the cover, I love the premise… I’m giving it a shot. I’m also watching Addams Family Values, so we’ll see how much reading actually gets done tonight. 

5 Haunted House Novels to Read when You’re Home Alone

I have always been a sucker for a good old haunted house. I have and will continue to watch haunted house movies, take haunted house tours, read haunted house books and secretly harbor the belief that my own house is probably a little haunted. In my mind there is nothing more terrifying than the feeling—however fleeting—that something has violated your safe space and turned it into something menacing. That being said I LOVE that shiver of terror. A haunted house, while scary, is such an elegant monster.So without further a-boo (see what I did there?) let’s countdown my Five Haunted House Novels to Read When You’re Home Alone!


White is For Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

In a vast, mysterious house on the cliffs near Dover, the Silver family is reeling from the hole punched into its heart. Lily is gone and her twins, Miranda and Eliot, and her husband, the gentle Luc, mourn her absence with unspoken intensity. All is not well with the house, either, which creaks and grumbles and malignly confuses visitors in its mazy rooms, forcing winter apples in the garden when the branches should be bare. Generations of women inhabit its walls. And Miranda, with her new appetite for chalk and her keen sense for spirits, is more attuned to them than she is to her brother and father. She is leaving them slowly -
Slipping away from them -
And when one dark night she vanishes entirely, the survivors are left to tell her story.
”Miri I conjure you ”

I’m in love with this novel. I love that the house itself is one of the narrators (the cruel, terrifying one). It draws from the Gothic tradition in many familiar ways (family curse, motherlessness, haunted, isolated house, tormented young woman) and deviates or innovates in others (multiple narrators—including the house, LGBT+ themes and again THE HOUSE is telling its own story). Oyeyemi is an artist when it comes to drafting that unsettled feeling at the base of your spine (see Mr.Fox and Boy, Snow, Bird for prime examples of her elegant unease).

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Past the rusted gates

And untrimmed hedges,

Hill House broods and waits…

Is Hill House haunted, or is it just Eleanor? True to form, Jackson gives us a tale where the answer to that question lies tantalizingly out of reach. The Haunting of Hill House has all the hallmarks of a classic haunter house story: unexplained noises, doors that shut by themselves, isolated and disorienting grounds, a nasty reputation among the locals, and that unshakeable uneasy feeling of something not quite right in the air. All that and more draws a scholar of the occult and his team of volunteers (his assistant, lonely Eleanor, and Hill House’s heir) to the foreboding Hill House. As unexplainable events unfold and fear grips and releases the guests one of them is affected more than the others and the house—or rather Ms. Jackson—toys with the reader as to what the source could be.

Reading Shirley Jackson is a perverse joy. I am obsessed with the fact that even her most haunting and terrifying stories don’t draw their real terror from the supernatural, but rather from the monsters lurking inside of us. I’ve read The Haunting of Hill House four times, and I’m still not sure who/what is really doing the haunting. And that definitely gives me the chills. 

 Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse have just moved into the Bramford, a stately old New York apartment building, with a bit of a reputation, but old buildings are full of history and not all of it can be good. Undeterred by its sinister image and its strange elderly residents, the Woodhouses tackle the ups and downs of being a young married couple. Namely, Rosemary sets up house, and Guy attempts to get work as an actor in a city with no shortage of talents leading man types. But things take a turn when Guy gets friendly with their senior neighbors Roman and Minnie Castavet; Guy lands a great part, and Rosemary get pregnant. With Guy off at work, Rosemary becomes increasingly isolated with only her eccentric neighbors for company and a growing sense of dread about their interest in her baby.

So, yes I know. It’s not technically a haunted house story, but Rosemary’s Baby draws on that theme of the sacred space being violated by sinister forces. In this case both the safety of Rosemary’s house and her body become compromised by forces she cannot control nor truly understand without going mad. I love this book because it makes me feel unsafe, which I think is a great thing for a book to do. I worry terribly for Rosemary, I know that nothing is going to save her in any way that won’t scar her forever. It’s riveting, and every time I read it I am transported back to my original terrified reading as I sat on the floor of MY haunted apartment building’s laundry room floor.

Time Windows by Kathryn Reiss

The new cover of this book might inadvertently scarier than the novel itself.

It’s been an incredibly long time since I read this book, so long in fact that I can swear it had a different title when I read it in elementary school. I don’t have a brilliant enough memory to come up with an original plot description so I have to rely on the back of the book.

When Miranda moves with her family to an old hose in a small Massachusetts town, she discovers an antique dollhouse the duplicates her new home in miniature. Looking through the dollhouse windows, she is shocked to see scene from the tragic lives of the real hose’s past inhabitants. She soon realizes that her home is exerting an evil power over the women who live there. And even worse, Miranda’s own mother is succumbing to its influence! Miranda must find the key to unlock the past and so release the house from its spell. But doing so means Miranda must relive one of those terrifying dollhouse scenes.

I don’t remember much about this book, accept that I was terrified. I remember the very real fear I felt reading it during a thunderstorm by flashlight. I have read many books since then and can remember many of their plots and characters, but very few do I solely remember by emotional recall.

The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

From the Dover Thrift Edition: Built over an unquiet grave, the House of the Seven Gables carries a dying man’s curse that blights the lives of its residents for over two centuries. Now Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon, an iron-hearted hypocrite and intellectual heir to the mansion’s unscrupulous founder, is attempting to railroad a pair of his elderly relatives out of the house. Only two young people stand in his way — a visiting country cousin and an enigmatic boarder skilled in mesmerism.

I had every intention of writing this entire post about The House of the Seven Gables, but everything I wrote came off sounding like one of my old grad school papers. So, I scrapped it. But this is my all time favorite haunted house novel. I love it because not only do I love a good creepy read, but I love Nathaniel Hawthorne and how his works often reach back into the real past of America’s early days only to come back with filthy hands. Hawthorne himself was haunted by his family’s involvement in the Salem Witch Trials (his ancestor was Judge John Hathorne, the only Witch Trial judge not to repent his role in the deaths of 20 innocent people. Hawthorne even changed his name—adding the ’w’—to distance himself from said relative) nearly 200 years after the fact. The House of the Seven Gables among many of his other works deals with the long shadow that ugly chapter casts in the United States. It is not only a story of spectral ghosts and magic curses, but of the ghosts of the cruelty normal human beings are capable of that poisons the wells of history for generations. It’s chilling in a very real way, because under the surface it’s absolutely real.

So there you have it, a whole neighborhood of my favorite haunted houses, feel free to trick or treat there this weekend!

Let me know what your favorite haunted houses are in the comments, on facebook, or instagram

Currently Reading: Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

I’ve been going through a MAJOR reading slump… I’ve only finished 2 books this month. That isn’t to say I haven’t tried to read about a dozen or so.
I just haven’t found anything that has drawn me in for more than a few chapters. There are plenty of books I’m excited about, but seriously after like 50 pages I can’t seem to keep going. 

I think Jane, Unlimited my be the book that breaks the pattern. I’ve heard that it’s complicated and weird and well written and that is just what I need right now!

Jane has lived an ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia—an adjunct professor and deep sea photographer. Jane counted on Magnolia to make the world feel expansive and to turn life into an adventure. But Aunt Magnolia was lost a few months ago in Antarctica on one of her expeditions.

Now, with no direction, a year out of high school, and obsessed with making umbrellas that look like her own dreams (but mostly just mourning her aunt), she is easily swept away by Kiran Thrash—a glamorous, capricious acquaintance who shows up and asks Jane to accompany her to a gala at her family’s island mansion called Tu Reviens.

Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites to you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.” With nothing but a trunkful of umbrella parts to her name, Jane ventures out to the Thrash estate. Then her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns. What Jane doesn’t know is that Tu Reviens will offer her choices that can ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But at Tu Reviens, every choice comes with a reward, or a price. 

Wish me luck!

Unboxing: September Uppercase 

As you may remember, Owlcrate’s September box theme (Mythical Creatures) didn’t appeal to me at all and I opted to skip this month with them. 

But I didn’t want to go a month without a box…especially my birthday month (more on that later) so I opted to try out Uppercase this month, and I was not disappointed!

First of all, how effin’ cute is the packaging?! It’s not bulky and doesn’t take up space in the way other boxes do. I mean I can’t be the only one who for some reason takes forever to throw out boxes, can I?

Inside the cute bag are delightful little treasures!

  • A signed copy of Warcross by Marie Lu
  • A Warcross button
  • Hogwarts house crest coasters
  • An Uppercase exclusive “Book Queen” keychain 
  • An ALA Banned Book Week sticker 
  • A Reading Experience bookmark 

For the price (it’s one of the most affordable book subscription boxes) it’s a great buy! I’m really pleased with it, and actually can’t wait to read Warcross!

I’ll be back on Owlcrate next month for their “Meet Me in the Forest” theme, and I’m debating trying out LitCube’s “It’s Just a Bunch of Hocus Pocus” box.

If You Like… Weekly Read-a-like Post

So, remember when I said I felt like I was on an upswing and would be posting regularly again?

I was wrong.

I went down again… hard. But I am trying to put my stuff back on track, and part of that is working on my RA (reads’ advisory) skills for my job. With that as a goal I’m going to try to do a weekly “Read-a-like” recommendations for popular novels or authors.
So without further ado…

If You Liked The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood…

The Handmaid’s Tale is one of those books that should come in your hypothetical feminist starter pack. It so broadly draws a picture of objectification and oppressive gender roles in society that it would be hard to walk away from reading it without it altering the way you look at the world we live in. In fact, its political and social message have in some cases been deemed dangerous/offensive to the public, and the novel has been a staple on the ALA’s most frequently banned and challenged books list for decades. If you’ve liked A Handmaid’s Tale or are intrigued by the feminist subject matter I have a few recommendations for you.

You Might Like…

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Like The Handmaid’s Tale, The Awakening is largely hailed as a major text in the feminist canon. It deals with the roles women are “supposed” to play in society and what the consequences are for failing to conform to those roles.

When first published in 1899, The Awakening shocked readers with its honest treatment of female marital infidelity. Audiences accustomed to the pieties of late Victorian romantic fiction were taken aback by Chopin’s daring portrayal of a woman trapped in a stifling marriage, who seeks and finds passionate physical love outside the confines of her domestic situation.

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

This short novel (really more of a novella) takes women’s fear of objectification and dehumanization and ratchets it waaaaaaay up. It’s scary because Levin sets it in the real world, not some future dystopia. It’s scary as hell.

For Joanna, her husband, Walter, and their children, the move to beautiful Stepford seems almost too good to be true. It is. For behind the town’s idyllic facade lies a terrible secret — a secret so shattering that no one who encounters it will ever be the same. At once a masterpiece of psychological suspense and a savage commentary on a media-driven society that values the pursuit of youth and beauty at all costs, The Stepford Wives is a novel so frightening in its final implications that the title itself has earned a place in the American lexicon.

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

Both THT and Bumped use women’s fear of only being valued for their reproductive capability as a premise. But as a YA title, this one is a bit lighter. 

When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society. Girls sport fake baby bumps and the school cafeteria stocks folic-acid-infused food.

Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and have never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Up to now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend, Zen, who is way too short for the job. Harmony has spent her whole life in Goodside, a religious community, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to convince Melody that pregging for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from. When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common.

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

This book is really upsetting. Seriously. But you should definitely read it.

In a world in which baby girls are no longer born naturally, women are bred in schools, trained in the arts of pleasing men until they are ready for the outside world. At graduation, the most highly rated girls become “companions”, permitted to live with their husbands and breed sons until they are no longer useful. For the girls left behind, the future – as a concubine or a teacher – is grim.

Best friends freida and isabel are sure they’ll be chosen as companions – they are among the most highly rated girls in their year. But as the intensity of final year takes hold, isabel does the unthinkable and starts to put on weight. And then, into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride. freida must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known.
*The Handmaid’s Tale photograph is an original photo, while all other photos come from Goodreads or Amazon.

**All descriptions from Goodreads

Back to School Books

So, it’s that time of year again, BACK TO SCHOOL. Even if you’re an adult who hasn’t stepped inside a school in ages there is still a very palpable tingle of anticipation/dread in the air. Until this year, the years my life have been divided into school and not school first as a student then as a teacher. This is the first year in my life when I haven’t “gone back to school” and it feels incredibly weird. I feel like something is wrong or missing, like I’m forgetting to do something.

 That thing is school. 
So here’s a list of some Back to School Books to soothe that dull little itch in the back of my (and maybe your) mind.

High School

 Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty

When her best friend, Hope Weaver, moves away from Pineville, New Jersey, hyperobservant sixteen-year-old Jessica Darling is devastated. A fish out of water at school and a stranger at home, Jessica feels more lost than ever now that the only person with whom she could really communicate has gone. How is she supposed to deal with the boy- and shopping-crazy girls at school, her dad’s obsession with her track meets, her mother salivating over big sister Bethany’s lavish wedding, and her nonexistent love life?

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

This is the story of Paul, a sophomore at a high school like no other: The cheerleaders ride Harleys, the homecoming queen used to be a guy named Daryl (she now prefers Infinite Darlene and is also the star quarterback), and the gay-straight alliance was formed to help the straight kids learn how to dance. When Paul meets Noah, he thinks he’s found the one his heart is made for. Until he blows it. The school bookie says the odds are 12-to-1 against him getting Noah back, but Paul’s not giving up without playing his love really loud. His best friend Joni might be drifting away, his other best friend Tony might be dealing with ultra-religious parents, and his ex-boyfriend Kyle might not be going away anytime soon, but sometimes everything needs to fall apart before it can really fit together right.

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

Before the asteroid we let ourselves be defined by labels: The athlete, the outcast, the slacker, the overachiever. 

But then we all looked up and everything changed. 

They said it would be here in two months. That gave us two months to leave our labels behind. Two months to become something bigger than what we’d been, something that would last even after the end. 

Two months to really live.
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

Marisha Pessl’s dazzling debut sparked raves from critics and heralded the arrival of a vibrant new voice in American fiction. At the center of Special Topics in Calamity Physics is clever, deadpan Blue van Meer, who has a head full of literary, philosophical, scientific, and cinematic knowledge, but she could use some friends. Upon entering the elite St. Gallway School, she finds some–a clique of eccentrics known as the Bluebloods. One drowning and one hanging later, Blue finds herself puzzling out a byzantine murder mystery.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s twin sister Wren has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?
A Secret History by Donna Tartt

Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last – inexorably – into evil.
 I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe

Our story unfolds at fictional Dupont University: those Olympian halls of scholarship housing the cream of America’s youth, the roseate Gothic spires and manicured lawns suffused with tradition . . . Or so it appears to beautiful, brilliant Charlotte Simmons, a sheltered freshman from North Carolina. But Charlotte soon learns, to her mounting dismay, that for the upper-crust coeds of Dupont, sex, cool, and kegs trump academic achievement every time. She is seduced by the heady glamour of acceptance, betraying both her values and upbringing before she grasps the power of being different–and the exotic allure of her own innocence.

Boarding School

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

Lee Fiora is an intelligent, observant fourteen-year-old when her father drops her off in front of her dorm at the prestigious Ault School in Massachusetts. She leaves her animated, affectionate family in South Bend, Indiana, at least in part because of the boarding school’s glossy brochure, in which boys in sweaters chat in front of old brick buildings, girls in kilts hold lacrosse sticks on pristinely mown athletic fields, and everyone sings hymns in chapel. As Lee soon learns, Ault is a cloistered world of jaded, attractive teenagers who spend summers on Nantucket and speak in their own clever shorthand. Both intimidated and fascinated by her classmates, Lee becomes a shrewd observer of–and, ultimately, a participant in–their rituals and mores. As a scholarship student, she constantly feels like an outsider and is both drawn to and repelled by other loners. By the time she’s a senior, Lee has created a hard-won place for herself at Ault. But when her behavior takes a self-destructive and highly public turn, her carefully crafted identity within the community is shattered.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter is due to start his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His best friends Ron and Hermione have been very secretive all summer and he is desperate to get back to school and find out what has been going on. However, what Harry discovers is far more devastating than he could ever have expected…

*NOTE* Any Harry Potter book is good for some back to school mood setting. I chose Order of the Phoenix because it actually deals largely with education, how it’s approached and the power that teachers wield—and whether or not they are responsible with it.

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

At seventeen, overachieving Lane finds himself at Latham House, a sanatorium for teens suffering from an incurable strain of tuberculosis. Part hospital and part boarding school, Latham is a place of endless rules and confusing rituals, where it’s easier to fail breakfast than it is to flunk French. There, Lane encounters a girl he knew years ago. Instead of the shy loner he remembers, Sadie has transformed. At Latham, she is sarcastic, fearless, and utterly compelling. Her friends, a group of eccentric troublemakers, fascinate Lane, who has never stepped out of bounds his whole life. And as he gradually becomes one of them, Sadie shows him their secrets: how to steal internet, how to sneak into town, and how to disable the med sensors they must wear at all times.

But there are consequences to having secrets, particularly at Latham House. And as Lane and Sadie begin to fall in love and their group begins to fall sicker, their insular world threatens to come crashing down.

*NOTE* This one is a little John Greeny for my tastes, but it get points for the unique circumstances of the novel.

All photos and descriptions from Goodreads.com.