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Back to School with a Supernatural Twist

Back to SchoolI have a problem: I hate the end of August.

It’s a time of year that just brings me down, and not because it is the end of summer, but because it is time to go back to school.  Growing up, I would be filled with dread as the weeks passed in August.  I tried to fake it and get into new school supplies and a new wardrobe, but in the end, no shiny folders or awesome sneakers could quell the anxiety inside of me for the first day of school.  As years passed, I thought I would grow out of being grumpy at the end of August, but to this day I still get down this time of year even though I no longer attend school.

This got me thinking, perhaps if I had attended some of the schools I have read about in teen literature–those that have a supernatural twist–then maybe I would have liked back to school time just a little bit more… and maybe I would have even looked forward to starting a new school year.  If you are like me and feeling like a big bummer right now because it is back to school time, then check out some of the books I have listed below.  These novels feature schools that are ten times cooler than your ordinary school, and might even help you get into the back to school spirit.

zombie queenZombie Queen of Newbury High by Amanda Ashby

Mia wants to ensure that she will be going to prom with the high school quarterback so she purchases a love spell, but it backfires and turns her classmates into zombies.  A school filled with zombies would definitely make life more exciting!  Every day would be a battle for your life.  Mia, however, has help from new student Chase, who just happens to work for the Department of Paranormal Containment.

Great and Terrible BeautyA Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (2004 Best Books for Young Adults, 2004 Teens’ Top Ten Title)

Gemma Doyle has special powers that she does not know about, until she attends the Spence School in London.  It is there that Gemma and her new friends discover a diary that allows Gemma to contact the Realms, a spirit world where they all travel to.  Talk about a great escape from the mundane school day! In the Realms they seem to have vast power and find much happiness, until the truth about the Realms and the Order that maintains this spirit world become known to the girls.

Avalon HighAvalon High by Meg Cabot

It is her junior year in high school and Elaine has moved from Minnesota to Annapolis, MD. As if starting a new school in the middle of high school is not hard enough, Elaine is experiencing some weird coincidences. Her new life and high school have turned into the modern-day Camelot, which in my opinion is way better than your normal high school. Elaine, named by her medieval scholar parents after the Lady of Shalott, meets the modern-day Arthur in star quarterback Will while running in the park. The attraction between the two of them is instant, and Elaine quickly becomes entangled in his family drama and girlfriend problems.

etiquetteEtiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Set in an alternate steampunk England in 1851, Sophronia’s finishing school is like no other.  It teaches the art of poisoning, eye lash fluttering, self defense, and other skills to make one an expert in espionage.  Being no ordinary girl, Sophronia is thriving at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy, and she tests the limits of her new training as she tries to solve the mystery of the missing prototype.  This is my kind of school, even if it is a finishing school!  Not only does Sophronia learn the fine art of espionage, but her school is filled with mechanicals and it has a werewolf and a vampire teaching classes.

MarkedMarked by P.C. and Kirstin Cast (2008 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers)

Zoey lives in a world where vampires are accepted and mix with humans.  If a young person is marked, then it means that they have been recognized as someone who will become a vampire.  Once marked, teens are sent to attend the House of Night school, where they will turn and become vampires or there will be complications and their body will reject the change and they will die.  This school sounds a bit serious, but it is there that Zoey finds true friendship and even some romance despite being given one of the more powerful marks.

oh my godsOh.My.Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs

Phoebe’s mom has remarried and has moved Phoebe to the small island of Aegean off the coast of Greece.  Phoebe is miserable because she has to leave her friends behind, as well as a promising college career as a track star, all to attend an uber-exclusive boarding school on the island.  In fact the school is so exclusive you can’t enroll unless you are descended from a Greek god.  That’s right!  Phoebe is attending a school filled with students that have powers from their godly ancestors.  It might be a hard school to attend if you aren’t gifted, but luckily for Phoebe, there may be something in her family tree that will help her out.

Hex HallHex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (2011 Teens’ Top Ten Nominee)

Sophie knows she’s a witch.  She doesn’t know much magic, but she knows she has the natural ability.  However, when you’ve had no formal training in witchcraft, you’re bound to make mistakes.  Sophie makes a big one: turning a potential prom date into a love crazed maniac.  As punishment for her reckless spell casting, Sophie is sent to Hecate Hall, a.k.a. Hex Hall.  Hex Hall is a reform school for Prodigium (witches, fairies, and shape shifters).  While everyone else at Hex Hall knows all about the Prodigium life, Sophie is clueless since she was raised by a mortal.  I don’t know about you, but if I got to attend a reform school filled with witches, fairies, and shape shifters, I would be super excited to start my first day!

Vampire RisingVampire Rising by Jason Henderson

Alex Van Helsing’s parents have sent him to Switzerland to attend Glenarvon Academy.  Knowing that he has a pretty recognizable last name, he thinks nothing of it until he arrives at Glenarvon.  After only two days there, Alex slays a vampire.  It is his English teacher that reveals to Alex that he is in fact descended from a line of  famous vampire hunters that are part of the Polidorium, which is currently trying to track down a vampire clan led by the infamous Icemaker.  Alex’s school is pretty much the same as any other Swiss boarding school (which is awesome!), but when two of his new friends get taken by vampires, Alex has to embrace his birthright and set out to rescue his friends.


Fallen by Lauren Kate

Seventeen-year-old Luce, is starting reform school after she survives a suspicious fire that kills her boyfriend. Immediately she is drawn to another student, Daniel, because Luce can’t shake the feeling that she has known him all her life.  However, his mysterious nature makes it almost impossible for her to learn the truth about their connection. Spoiler Alert!: Luce’s reform school is filled with fallen angels and supernatural occurrences at every turn.  If you have to go to reform school, then I would think that Luce’s school, Sword & Cross, would definitely be the one to attend.

LegaciesLegacies by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill

Spirit is orphaned when her family dies in a car accident, but her parents have trusted her to the Oakhurst Boarding School for Magicians.  It is a school where only those with the gift of magic attend.  Though Spirit’s gifts have not yet manifested, she quickly makes friends, and together they uncover a mystery surrounding a high number of missing students in the recent years.  Oakhurst sounds like an awesome school: it is set in rural Montana, it is an orphanage as well as a boarding school, and it teaches you how to develop and enhance your magical powers.  Where do I sign up!?

Vampire AcademyVampire Academy by Richelle Mead (2008 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 2008 Teens’ Top Ten Title)

Rose Hathaway is a dhampir, half human–half vampire. She is supposed to be attending St. Vladimir’s academy where she will be trained to protect the Moroi, vampires who are born as such. However, there is only one Moroi that Rose is determined to protect: her best friend Lissa. Lissa and Rose have had a special bond since they were children, and they have been on the run from St. Vladimir’s for two years. They are eventually caught and forced to return to St. Vladimir’s where they are watched over closely. Lissa’s return puts her in danger, though, because she has the rare Moroi gift of healing. Someone sinister knows what Lissa’s power can really be used for, and they will stop at nothing to get to her to use her magic for their own evil plans.  I would love to attend St. Vladimir’s!  You are either trained to fight and kick butt as a dhampir, or you are taught to enhance your natural vampiric gifts.  No matter what, classes would be very interesting and way better than your average class!

Dead is the New BlackDead is the New Black by Marlene Perez (2009 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers)

Everyone in Daisy’s family has psychic powers– except for Daisy.  She is used to being the “norm.” All she needs is her best friend, Ryan, who she also happens to have a huge crush on.  However, when head cheerleader Samantha shows up at the start of the new school year clad in black and carrying a coffin around, strange things begin to happen at Nightshade High School.  Teenage girls are attacked and killed and Daisy’s family joins forces with the local police to help solve the murders, using their psychic gifts.  Daisy is determined to find the killer on her own, but trying to track down this killer will put her in danger and have scary consequences– like having to join the cheer leading squad!  OK, so head cheerleaders that randomly become goth!  I would love to attend Nightshade Academy, if anything to see the goth cheerleading squad!

second skinSecond Skin by Jessica Wollman

If only popularity was so easy as wearing a second skin!  I would attend that school in a minute.  Kylie is the most popular student of Woodland High.  Sam discovers the secret to Kylie’s popularity: Kylie has a second skin.  Though Kylie has expensive clothes and perfect skin and hair, it is the skin that makes her uber-popular because it magically enhances her personality and gives her the confidence to be popular.  When Sam steals and dons the second skin she skyrockets in popularity and leaves her old friends behind.  What Sam could not have known, though, was that popularity comes at a price.

-Colleen Seisser, currently reading The Poison Eaters by Holly Black.

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Colleen Seisser

Teen Services Librarian at the Mount Prospect Public Library, in Mount Prospect, IL. Artist, crafter, and proud owner of a quirky English bulldog.


  1. Great list! On the younger end of the spectrum, there are the Tales from Lovecraft Middle School books by Charles Gilman, the School of Fear series, Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan, and Infestation by Tim Bradley. None of the schools in these books are actually schools you’d want to enroll in, but they might inspire some appreciation for the school you do attend.

  2. Colleen Seisser Colleen Seisser

    Thanks Kirsten! And thanks for your excellent suggestions!

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