Last year I went on a boarding school setting binge without even realizing it. Purely by chance I found that I really liked these stories and realized that I’d read several others over the years. Never having gone to boarding school, I think it’s always been kind of romanticized in my head. Although after living in the dorms during college, that view was crushed a bit. Ha! But I love the extra element of drama that these settings lend to a plot so here are a few that I have really enjoyed lately…
The Broken Girls, Simone St. James
So far this is probably my favorite Simone St. James book that I’ve read. The ending was such a surprise to me. I really didn’t see it coming and loved how she chose to wrap it up.
There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming–until one of them mysteriously disappears. . . . Altering between 1950 and 2014, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death, and she’s come back to find out what really happened.
The Secret Place, Tana French
You all know I love Tana French and her Dublin Murder Squad. I’ll preface this by saying that I think the first book in the series is rather weak, so don’t let that deter you from reading the rest.
A year ago a boy was found murdered at a girlsʼ boarding school, and the case was never solved. Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to join Dublin’s Murder Squad when sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey arrives in his office with a photo of the boy with the caption: “I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.” Stephen joins with Detective Antoinette Conway to reopen the case—beneath the watchful eye of Holly’s father, fellow detective Frank Mackey. Things get dangerous when the clues lead right back to Holly and her friends.
Wilder Girls, Rory Power
Boarding school meets deadly virus anyone? Yep, a bit of YA horror for you. The girls go a bit feral although they’re all still trying to live civilly in their dormitories and continue on with lessons of a fashion. Of course we find out that things are exactly as they seem. This one has a couple of gruesome scenes but not too bad.
It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.
Sawkill Girls, Claire Legrand
Lesbian rep in this one! This was one of my favorite books read in 2019. This is all about the feminine badassery but be warned, it’s a bit weird. If you’re not scared to dive into complex relationships and eerie secrets, you’ll love this one.
Marion. Val, Zoey. Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires. Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.
Orphan, Monster, Spy, Matt Killeen
I really loved this WWII YA spy thriller. A young Jewish girl is asked to infiltrate a Nazi boarding school and pose as someone other than she really is. It’s terrifying and she nearly gets caught on several occasions. If you like historical thrillers, you’ll love this one.
After her mother is shot at a checkpoint, fifteen-year-old Sarah–blonde, blue-eyed, and Jewish–finds herself on the run from a government that wants to see every person like her dead. Then Sarah meets a mysterious man with an ambiguous accent, a suspiciously bare apartment, and a lockbox full of weapons. He’s a spy, and he needs Sarah to become one, too, to pull off a mission he can’t attempt on his own: infiltrate a boarding school attended by the daughters of top Nazi brass, befriend the daughter of a key scientist, and steal the blueprints to a bomb that could destroy the cities of Western Europe.
The Name of the Star, Maureen Johnson
This is one of my favorite YA paranormal series! Our protaganist finds herself smack dab in the middle of a Jack the Ripper copycat case. I love that her best friend is actually a ghost that no one else can see and no one else knows about. These books came out several years ago but there is still plans for a fourth book to come out hopefully soon.
Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London to start a new life at boarding school just as a series of brutal murders mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper killing spree of more than a century ago has broken out across the city. The police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man believed to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him – the only one who can see him. And now Rory has become his next target…unless she can tap her previously unknown abilities to turn the tables.
What is your favorite setting for YA books?