Back to (Realistic, but Fictional) School

School Room by Rob Shenk
School Room by Rob Shenk

It’s getting to be that time of year; the temperatures are falling, the edges of the leaves are crisping, football is revving up, baseball is winding down, and many of us are getting used to new teachers and new classes.

To help take the sting out of the end of summer (goodbye till next year, reading on the beach with an iced tea…), I like to throw myself into celebrating the beginning of fall (hello again, curling up in an armchair with a hot chocolate while the rain falls outside!). For me, this means: new notebooks, adding apples to pretty much every meal, and diving into books that highlight all the little rituals of the school year. The following are some of my favorite titles with strong school settings, to help us all get excited for the new semester (even if we can’t actually enroll at Hogwarts, which would, let’s be honest, be the ultimate in back-to-school excitement).

Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Frankie is really smart (and unaccustomed to hiding her smarts in front of guys, even though sometimes they seem more comfortable if she does), dislikes accepting the status quo, is impatient with her dad’s secretive pride about his own halcyon days at her boarding school, and is (maybe) on the path to becoming a criminal mastermind- an idea she finds morally…ambiguous. A 2009 Printz Honor Book, Teens Top Ten pick, and National Book Award finalist, plus a 2013 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults title, this is one of those books I’m always bothering everyone I know to read.

Never Let Me Go
Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Speculative fiction disguised as a coming-of-age story, Never Let Me Go was an Alex Award winner in 2006, and has quickly become a modern classic. Following a trio of students through their years at a seemingly traditional boarding school, Never Let Me Go is about the complex hierarchies and subtle competitions between friends, but it’s also about how to get the truth from adults, and how to live with truths that are shockingly, fundamentally painful to process. Continue reading Back to (Realistic, but Fictional) School

That Was Then, This is Now: And Both Were Young

andbothI was thinking about the books I’ve been reading and discussing for this series and wondering if there was anything they had in common. And there is: they are all books that somehow found their way into my daydreams and imaginings (I was a very daydreamy child and teenager). No book provided quite so much daydream material as Madeleine L’Engle’s And Both Were Young. I adored this book and read it many times over the years, at a variety of ages. This book had it all for me: romance, boarding school, a special kind teacher, and an exotic setting. It wasn’t just boarding school, but in Switzerland! Day trips to Gstaad, skiing trips counting as your gym class, and hot cocoa to warm up.

The main character, Flip, feels a bit out of place with all the other ruddy-cheeked outdoorsy girls and is grateful for a kind young teacher who lets her spend time in her cozy study and is a bit of mentor to her. There is a boy that she meets outside, and she ends up spending time with him and his father at their chalet, too. As a young reader I was equally entranced by her secret outings and the sweet friendship (chaste romance) she had with the young man as I was by the relationship she had with the teacher and how the teacher helped her come out of her shell and learn to make friends. I was charmed by this book for many years, finding something comforting as well as something to new to like each time I read it. I’m looking forward to seeing what I think now! Continue reading That Was Then, This is Now: And Both Were Young

The Monday Poll: Worst Boarding School

by flickr user laertes
Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week we asked which boarding school from YA lit you’d do anything to get into. Absolutely blowing everything else out of the water with 63% of the vote was (as you might expect) Hogwarts from JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. The Gallagher Academy (from Ally Condie’s Gallagher Girls series) and the School of America in Paris (featured in Stephanie Perkins’s Anna and the French Kiss) also made good showings with 15% of the vote each. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!

This week, we’re taking our previous question and flipping it: boarding school can be great, but boarding school can also be the absolute worst, so which boarding school from YA lit would you do anything to get out of? Vote in the poll below or leave a comment if we’ve omitted a truly terrible school!

[poll id =”60″]

The Monday Poll: Best Boarding School

by flickr user jacobite747
Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked which YA book had the best dress on the cover, and you’ve spoken: The Luxe by Anna Godbersen (with 34% of the vote) is the best-dressed book! The Selection by Kiera Cass and Grave Mercy by Robin LaFever tied for the next spot with 18% of the vote each. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!

Today is Labor Day in the US, which means that if school near you isn’t already back in session, it will be very soon! This back-to-school vibe has gotten us thinking about boarding schools: they’re certainly a fixture in YA literature, since they provide a college-like experience for a teen protagonist with no parents but plenty of local culture. So this week we want to know: which boarding school from YA lit would you do anything to get into? Vote in the poll below or leave a comment if we’ve omitted your favorite!

[poll id=”59″]

Popular Paperbacks: Boarding Schools to Summer Camps!

By Flickr user Steve Masiello
How many of us have at one time spent time at summer camp? Archery, canoeing, arts and crafts, and summer romance are all hallmarks of the camp experience. YALSA’s Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults committee is looking for YOUR nominations for Boarding Schools to Summer Camps: leaving home to find yourself. PPYA describes this list as “books where the characters go to boarding school, study or work abroad, or participate in some other activity that takes them away from home for an extended period of time.” Boarding schools in particular seem to be a very popular setting for many YA novels, including The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (a 2009 Printz Honor book), Marked by PC Cast, and Looking For Alaska by John Green (the 2006 Printz winner), to name only a few. There are many, many titles that fit this popular category. In fact, I’m betting that if you work at a library right now, in the dead heat of summer, many of those summer camp setting books or even the boarding school books are just about all checked out.

Raid your closets and scour your shelves for the next great book to nominate for this fun category. Remember, the only criteria for nominating a book for Popular Paperbacks is that the title be widely available in paperback. If it brings on feeling of reading euphoria, all the better!

The great thing about Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults (and all of YALSA’s lists and awards) is that anyone can suggest titles. You do not have to be a librarian. If you’re a teen reader, an adult reader, a teacher-librarian, a summer camp counselor, or just a fan of young adult literature, you can suggest a title for any PPYA list.

Still looking for more books to nominate? Check out more PPYA lists: I’m New Here Myself and Gowns, Greasepaint and Guitars.

— Sarah Wethern, currently reading Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield

School’s In! A Breakdown of School Stories

As teachers and librarians across the country wrap up their Summer Reading programs, it’s impossible to ignore what lurks ahead: school! While the little guys will be after first-day-of-school and riding-the-bus stories, older readers know very well that school becomes a universal backdrop — if not the main setting — of everyday teen life. School stories are also great for fleshing out your fall booktalks, which is what got me pondering subsets of the traditional school story genre. Here’s what I have so far:

Boarding School: Parents left behind + society of peers + exclusive environment = ideal teen hero incubator

Private-School Rich Kids: Teens with means are largely unsupervised. Fantasy: for some readers, it’s not supernatural creatures — it’s the life you wish you had.

Urban High School: Realistic, gritty, drama-driven stories predominantly featuring African-American characters.

There’s a Special School for People Like You: For when your skills are too awesome to mix with the normal folks.

Shifting/Exchanging: Sometimes, students find themselves switching to something completely different.

The School of Life: Coming-of-age outside of school

I’m sure there are tons of titles and categories I’ve forgotten. Feel free to continue in the comments, and happy back-to-school season!

–Becky O’Neil, currently reading Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card