It’s back to school season, which elicits excitement from some, but groans from others. When I first went back to library school, as much as I enjoyed my classes, I sort of wished they were more from the Rupert Giles school of Library Science, with a syllabus that looks something like this.
Suffice to say: I sympathize with teens who may be more excited to get lost in a fantasy world than dig into algebra homework (not that algebra isn’t important. It is). So for those study breaks when one just needs to escape, here are some fantasy and paranormal novels in school settings.
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
Sophie’s a witch, and when a prom night spell goes wrong, her punishment is reform school for the supernaturally inclined (witches, but also werewolves, vampires, and fairies). Turns out, Hex Hall isn’t that different than regular high school, and Sophie has to deal with mean girls, an major crush, and befriending outcasts. Oh, there’s also mysterious attacks on students, so maybe that’s a big different? Full of wit and spunk, Hex Hall is a fast, fun read.
Soulbound by Heather Brewer
Kaya is a healer at Shadow Academy, and because of her position, she’s forbidden to learn to fight, so she must train in secret. A thrilling romance, this fantasy novel is perfect for fans of strong female characters.
Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins
Harper was a debutante before she left a ball with new magical powers (long story). Now she’s a guardian with lots of skills and charged with protecting the school reporter, who might be fated to bring down the world. Southern sass and a bit of magic make this novel a fun time!
Keeper of Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger
Sophie is a bit of a misfit, mostly because she’s a telepath. Then, she learns she meets more kids with psychic abilities, and is transported to a new world and a new school where she studies things like elementalism and alchemy. Keeper of the Lost Cities is a vivid, magical middle grade fantasy that explores themes of belonging, family and friendship.
Novice by Taran Mathatu
Fletcher was just a blacksmith when he learned he had the ability to summon demons and was whisked off to a school for adepts to train in the art, so he can serve as a Battlemage in a war against savage Orcs. The first in a series, this book if perfect for fans of fantasy with a medieval feel.
Illusions of Fate by Kierstin White
This novel, set in an alternate world with a Victorian-like setting, is the story of Jessamin, who travels from her island home to the dreary continent to attend university. White weaves a tale of colonialism and imperialism laced with magic and romance that fans of historical fantasy will enjoy.
SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tomaki
This serialized web series is now in graphic novel form with a bonus ending! Although the school does feature witches and magical mutants, the conflicts are more everyday teenage angst and drama. Cute and funny, this is a must read for fans of graphic novels.
The Art of Wishing by Lindsay Ribar
Dating is high school is complicated enough, let alone when your boyfriend is a genie who can be summoned away at any moment and who is being hunted by someone trying to kill him (and all the genies in the world). This book is perfect for readers looking for a fresh take on a paranormal romance.
Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey
This dark, complex fantasy is told in two timelines: one, in a time where magic is forbidden, and another, set in a school where wizards learn magic while enduring brutal conditions, but it is only accessible to the wealthy.
The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Callum doesn’t want to attend the Magisterium, a school for learning to control elemental magic. But, when he takes the Iron Trial, he fails at failing and becomes an apprentice to a Mage — and so begins a thrilling adventure. This middle grade fantasy from popular authors Black and Clare will certainly find teen fans.
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (2008 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers)
Mean Girls meets Twilight in this campy romp set in a school for elite vampires who learn magic and their protectors who train in combat.
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Miri has always led a simple life, until it is predicted that the future princess lives in her village, and all young ladies are sent to a special school to learn the art of being a princess, but learns more about friendship and bravery. Even without magic, this is still a popular fantasy book with a school setting.
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (2004 Best Books for Young Adults)
In this historical novel, Gemma is shipped off to boarding school, where she learns that she has the power to see into the spirit world.
Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger
Sophronia is sent off to finishing school to learn some manners because her mom wants her to be a “proper young lady” — what her mother didn’t know was that her teachers would be vampires and werewolves and that she’d learn how to be a spy and assassin along with developing social grace.
The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
Joel, a student at Armedius Academy, wants to be a rithmatist and learn the powers to wield magic that can create beings to defend against magical monsters. This inventive and unique magical system is part of an immersive world and the backdrop to a tale of suspense and adventure.
The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett
Dusty is the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for the supernatural. Which means her homework is breaking into people’s houses and invading her dreams. When she uncovers a murder that comes true in the dreams of a (cute!) boy, she’s now got to unravel a mystery (for extra credit).
What is your favorite fantasy or paranormal novel with a school setting?
— Molly Wetta, currently reading Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston