Setting a book in a boarding school has always been a certain method to catch my attention, whether as a child and as an adult. When Hogwarts wasn’t going to happen, I went to whatever other boarding school novel I could get my hands on to fill the void. There’s something about setting kids, teens, and even adults in a closed-off, hyper-intense area with just one another to rely on. Everything seems a little off, everyone is on their own, and the atmosphere is always tense, and that’s exactly what I want out of a movie.
Harry Potter is obviously included on this list, but I’ve also included some lesser-known boarding school works that are worth reading, likeLooking for Alaska, which is set in a boarding school. We should all aspire to be accepted to our ideal boarding school. Books are categorized into subcategories, though some may cross over into multiple of the following areas. Goodreads provides the synopses.
Modern-Day/Contemporary Boarding Schools
Dark Rooms by Lili Anolik
Nica Baker’s murder shakes up the confusing and tight environment of an exclusive New England prep school. The crime is solved quickly—a lonely classmate, unrequited love, a suicide note confession—but memory and instinct won’t allow Nica’s older sister, Grace, to accept the case as closed, and she becomes increasingly obsessed with identifying and punishing the real perpetrator.
Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
This prestigious Manhattan dance school has seen its fair share of drama, including Gigi, Bette and June. In a competitive environment where every dancer is both a friend and a rival, the girls will do everything it takes to win at all costs. Don’t miss the sequel, either: Shiny Broken Pieces.
Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
Vermont’s prestigious Ellingham Academy educates some of the world’s most creative and innovative minds. An early twentieth century businessman named Albert Ellingham intended to create a magical area full of puzzles, twisting walkways, and gardens. He established the park. Shortly after the school started, his wife and daughter were stolen. Truly Devious, the terrifying moniker behind the mocking puzzle detailing murder tactics, had signed it, and that was the only actual hint. In her first year at Ellingham Academy, true-crime fan Stevie Bell has an ambitious plan: she intends to solve this cold case. ‘The Hand on the Wall’ and ‘The Vanishing Stair’ will complete this trilogy (coming in January 2020). Johnson’s Shades of London trilogy, beginning with The Name of the Star, is also set in a boarding school.
When the Ground Is Hard by Malla Nunn
It’s a joy for Adele Joubert to be one of Keziah Christian Academy’s most popular students. Despite this, Adele must share a room with Lottie, a despised student who refuses to pray and disobeys school authorities. Lottie’s rough exterior and honesty grow on Adele as they read Jane Eyre together, and Lottie learns to be a little kinder. They take on the bullies and the vengeful and prejudiced teachers together. When a student goes missing on campus, Adele and Lottie must rely on one another to solve the case and, in the process, discover what true friendship is all about.
The Secret Place by Tana French
At a girls’ boarding school, a body was discovered that was never located last year. Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to join Dublin’s Murder Squad when sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey appears in his office with a photo of the youngster with the caption: “I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.” Stephen joins Detective Antoinette Conway and Holly’s father, fellow detective Frank Mackey, in reopening the case. A closer look at Holly’s close-knit group of friends, their rival clique and the tangled links that tied them all together to the slain kid reveals a more strange and lethal underworld of teenage girls than detectives had anticipated.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Located distant from the city, Hailsham looks like an idyllic English boarding school. Its pupils are adequately cared for and nurtured, and they receive an excellent education in the arts and literature. However, kids are not exposed to much of the outside world and are not taught about it. When Kathy and her companions Ruth and Tommy leave the safety of the school grounds, they discover the full extent of Hailsham’s depravity.
Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small
Friendships that last a lifetime After meeting at the Paris Opera Ballet School as young children, Marine Duval and Kate Sanders were inseparable. During their final year of high school, Marine and Kate begin to think about what they would do to win the ultimate prize: to join the Opera’s elite corps de ballet, which would allow them to pursue their dream of becoming a ballerina. As the deadline for applications approaches, the competition heats up, and Marine and Kate come to terms with the fact that they stand to lose everything, including their friendship.
Girlhood by Cat Clarke
While attending the prestigious Duncraggan Academy, Harper is doing her best to put the past behind her and make friends with the rest of the students. Harper’s new friends are close-knit and supportive; they’re the kind of people she can rely on. Her twin sister Jenna’s death, and Harper’s role in it, haunt her. Harper’s new roommate, Kirsty, seems to have a profound effect on her. She’s lost a sibling, as well. Harper is now at peace. This is followed by an increase in the irrationality of Kirsty’s behavior. Why does her life mimic Harper’s in every way? Who is Harper’s long-lost sister, and why is she so obsessed with her?
Atlas of Men by David Sklar
His government position is going to be axed when three crates unexpectedly arrive at the door of Dr. Robert Thames’ residence. His famous prep school’s long-lost covert research project, done while he was a student there, is preserved in these documents. Robert realizes that he has repressed his memories of this study. He is shocked and enraged to find that the research was intended to investigate the link between physical type and leadership characteristics. Eventually, he manages to locate down four of his former classmates from Danvers Academy, and together they unearth the awful truth about what had been hidden for years.
Fence by C.S. Pacat and Johanna the Mad (illustrator)
Nicholas Cox, 16, is a complete outsider in the world of competitive fencing. Although he is bursting with natural skill, his lack of formal instruction forces him into a tournament against an all-boys fencing prodigy. The winner goes on to attend the prestigious Kings Row School. If he can make the cut, he’ll have the opportunity to play for a genuine squad and find a spot where he fits in.
Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Her charming British boyfriend Reeve Maxfield would still be living in New Jersey if things were fair for Jam Gallahue. She and he would be re-watching old comedic clips. She’d be kissing him in the library stacks. You can be sure that had she not chosen to attend The Wooden Barn, an alternative therapy boarding school in rural Vermont, she would not have had a strange roommate or enrolled in a class named Special Topics in English. But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is no longer here to help.
The Islanders by F.J. Campbell
Beautiful, wealthy, and self-centered When it comes to her new school, Beth Atkinson is the indisputable queen, and she has no intention of letting go of that title for a boyfriend. Despite the efforts of Milo, the head boy, and Edward, Milo’s devoted buddy, Zack finally persuades her to change her mind about Edward. For as long as Zack is in her life, she doesn’t realize how he is affecting the lives of everyone around him, and he is ultimately responsible for their demise.
Winger by Andrew Smith
Ryan Dean West, a fourteen-year-old junior in a posh boarding school in the Pacific Northwest, has a secret. He’s residing in the hostel for troublemakers, Opportunity Hall, and shares a room with the team’s most infamous bully. Ryan Dean is able to cope with life’s difficulties because to his sense of humor, his rugby mates, and his propensity for drawing comics. But when the unthinkable happens, he needs to figure out how to hold on to what’s most essential, even if it feels like everything has gone awry. Stand-Off, the follow-up, is a must-see.
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
The Jellicoe School’s boarding students are led by Taylor. She’ll have to cope with Jonah Griggs, the mysterious cadet leader, and someone she thought she’d never see again in the midst of the territorial conflicts. As a result, Taylor’s go-to person, Hannah, has vanished. It is Taylor’s only hint that five children who lived there 18 years ago are still there. Finding out more will need her to face her own past, make sense of her bizarre and recurring dreams, and locate her biological mother, all of which will take time and effort.