Share 13 Enthralling Boarding School Novels

13 Enthralling Boarding School Novels

Erin Flaaen is a corporate marketing assistant at Simon and Schuster. Despite her innocent appearance, she loves dark stories, having been strongly influenced by Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner as a teenager. Originally from Arizona, she moved to New York in 2014 and now spends her days being constantly confused by the weather, craving Mexican food, and reading books on trains.

The pages of literature abound with depictions of exclusive, ivy-lined boarding schools. The backdrop for many a coming-of-age novel, there’s something just slightly sinister about these cloistered, seemingly idyllic institutions that often continue to fascinate and enthrall us. Filled with mystery, tragedy, and institutionalized deception, these novels unveil the truth behind the carefully manicured image of perfection and privilege.


The Secret History
by Donna Tartt
Donna Tartt, winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize, established herself as a major talent with her acclaimed debut. Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a new way of thinking and living. A murder committed by one of their own leads to blackmail and betrayal and, ultimately, the group’s destruction.
The Secret History
Donna Tartt

If your favorite character is Jonathan Byers

The misunderstood, unhappy kid who yearns for an East Coast college where he can forget his modest upbringing and meet sufficiently interesting friends? Sounds like Richard Papen, the narrator of Donna Tartt’s first novel, THE SECRET HISTORY.

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A Separate Peace
by John Knowles
Set at a boys boarding school during the early years of World War II, this novel provides a luminous exploration of the dark side of adolescence. Its harrowing account of the loss of both the narrator and the world’s innocence has earned it the well-deserved title of contemporary classic.
A Separate Peace
John Knowles

Set at a boys boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. What happens between two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world.

Read the full review here.

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Skippy Dies
by Paul Murray

When Skippy, a fourteen-year-old boy at Dublin’s esteemed Seabrook College, ends up dead on the floor of a local doughnut shop, one pressing question remains: Why? This heartfelt and hilarious novel explores the pain, joy, and occasional beauty of adolescence, all while investigating the mystery of Skippy’s demise.

Skippy Dies
Paul Murray

When Skippy, a fourteen-year-old boy at Dublin’s esteemed Seabrook College, ends up dead on the floor of a local doughnut shop, one pressing question remains: Why? This heartfelt and hilarious novel explores the pain, joy, and occasional beauty of adolescence, all while investigating the mystery of Skippy’s demise.

MENTIONED IN:

13 Enthralling Boarding School Novels

By Erin Flaaen | August 25, 2015

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Prep
by Curtis Sittenfeld

Although she once felt like an outsider, scholarship student Lee managed to carve a place for herself at the Ault School. When her behavior takes a self-destructive turn, though, her carefully crafted identity is shattered. Curtis Sittenfeld’s debut novel is an insightful and uproarious coming-of-age story, as well as a vivid dissection of class, race, and gender.

Prep
Curtis Sittenfeld

Although she once felt like an outsider, scholarship student Lee managed to carve a place for herself at the Ault School. When her behavior takes a self-destructive turn, though, her carefully crafted identity is shattered. Curtis Sittenfeld’s debut novel is an insightful and uproarious coming-of-age story, as well as a vivid dissection of class, race, and gender.

MENTIONED IN:

13 Enthralling Boarding School Novels

By Erin Flaaen | August 25, 2015

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Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro
As children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at an exclusive boarding school with mercurial cliques and mysterious rules. Years later, as Ruth and Tommy reenter her life, Kathy reflects on their shared past. This suspenseful, moving novel explores youthful innocence, knowledge, and loss, seen through the eyes of a young woman revisiting her enigmatic childhood.
Never Let Me Go
Kazuo Ishiguro

The students of Hailsham are special. That’s what they’ve been told. Isolated from the outside world, they’re raised from birth as “donors,” their bodily organs harvested for wealthy patrons. But this is no schlocky sci-fi; it’s a gently observed drama. Existential, painful, and unforgettable, NEVER LET ME GO explores how even the most disenfranchised and doomed characters find meaning, hope, and love, even as they resign themselves to a life cut horribly short.

Crazy like: You’d be too.

Best crazy moment: The whole damn book.

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Belzhar
by Meg Wolitzer

Following the death of her boyfriend, Jam Gallahue finds herself at a therapeutic boarding school where a journal-writing assignment leads to an alternative realm and the opportunity to reclaim her loss. Meg Wolitzer has crafted a breathtaking story about first love, deep sorrow, and the power of acceptance, as Jam determines how much she’s willing to sacrifice.

Belzhar
Meg Wolitzer

Following the death of her boyfriend, Jam Gallahue finds herself at a therapeutic boarding school where a journal-writing assignment leads to an alternative realm and the opportunity to reclaim her loss. Meg Wolitzer has crafted a breathtaking story about first love, deep sorrow, and the power of acceptance, as Jam determines how much she’s willing to sacrifice.

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13 Enthralling Boarding School Novels

By Erin Flaaen | August 25, 2015

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The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
by Muriel Spark
A brief but brilliant story of a charismatic schoolteacher’s catastrophic effect on her pupils. At the Marcia Blaine School for Girls, Miss Jean Brodie selects a special group of students she considers the crème de la crème, but ultimately, one of the girls will betray her for her years of manipulation.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Muriel Spark

Miss Brodie, one of the most wonderful female characters, is an out-spoken and rashly passionate teacher chafing at the restraint of 1930 Edinburgh social norms. In love with two men, and deeply devoted to her students, who she calls the "creme de la creme". The story of how she comes up against the wall of social disapproval and betrayal is heartbreaking and beautiful.

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Looking for Alaska
by John Green

At Culver Creek Boarding School, Miles “Pudge” Halter meets Alaska Young. An event unto herself, Alaska pulls Miles into her exciting world, ultimately stealing his heart. John Green’s debut novel examines the lasting impact one life can have on another and brilliantly covers the loss of innocence characteristic to coming-of-age tales.

Looking for Alaska
John Green

At Culver Creek Boarding School, Miles “Pudge” Halter meets Alaska Young. An event unto herself, Alaska pulls Miles into her exciting world, ultimately stealing his heart. John Green’s debut novel examines the lasting impact one life can have on another and brilliantly covers the loss of innocence characteristic to coming-of-age tales.

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13 Enthralling Boarding School Novels

By Erin Flaaen | August 25, 2015

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Old School
by Tobias Wolff

At an elite prep school in 1960, a literary contest sparks a fever of competition amongst the students. This striking novel explores the ensuing deceptions and betrayals as the students vie for their chance to claim the coveted prize: an audience with a beloved writer.

Old School
Tobias Wolff

At an elite prep school in 1960, a literary contest sparks a fever of competition amongst the students. This striking novel explores the ensuing deceptions and betrayals as the students vie for their chance to claim the coveted prize: an audience with a beloved writer.

MENTIONED IN:

13 Enthralling Boarding School Novels

By Erin Flaaen | August 25, 2015

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The Lake of Dead Languages
by Carol Goodman

The week before graduation, Jane Hudson witnessed a terrible tragedy at the Heart Lake School for Girls. When Jane returns to the school as a Latin teacher, the shattering truth behind these tragic events are brought to light in this Gothic page-turner.

The Lake of Dead Languages
Carol Goodman

The week before graduation, Jane Hudson witnessed a terrible tragedy at the Heart Lake School for Girls. When Jane returns to the school as a Latin teacher, the shattering truth behind these tragic events are brought to light in this Gothic page-turner.

MENTIONED IN:

13 Enthralling Boarding School Novels

By Erin Flaaen | August 25, 2015

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The Fall of Rome
by Martha Southgate

This stunning debut tells the story of the lone African-American teacher at an elite all-boys boarding school, a promising black inner-city student who is new to the school, and a middle-aged white divorcée. Compelling and provocative, this novel explores how race and class entangle and sets our characters on the path toward a tragic confrontation.

The Fall of Rome
Martha Southgate

This stunning debut tells the story of the lone African-American teacher at an elite all-boys boarding school, a promising black inner-city student who is new to the school, and a middle-aged white divorcée. Compelling and provocative, this novel explores how race and class entangle and sets our characters on the path toward a tragic confrontation.

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13 Enthralling Boarding School Novels

By Erin Flaaen | August 25, 2015

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The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls
by Anton DiSclafani

Following a family tragedy in the midst of the Great Depression, fifteen-year-old Thea Atwell has been exiled to an equestrienne boarding school for Southern debutantes. An immersive page-turner about sex, love, family, and class, this evocative debut reveals the truth behind Thea’s expulsion from her family.

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls
Anton DiSclafani

Following a family tragedy in the midst of the Great Depression, fifteen-year-old Thea Atwell has been exiled to an equestrienne boarding school for Southern debutantes. An immersive page-turner about sex, love, family, and class, this evocative debut reveals the truth behind Thea’s expulsion from her family.

MENTIONED IN:

13 Enthralling Boarding School Novels

By Erin Flaaen | August 25, 2015

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In One Person
by John Irving
This story of unfulfilled love spans over half a century, commencing in a boarding school and following the narrator through his adolescence and into adulthood. It is an intimate portrait of the solitariness of a bisexual man and a calling for us to embrace our sexual differences.
In One Person
John Irving

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