Are you someone who hears the words "this book takes place at a school/university" and immediately wants to pick it up? Yeah, me too.
That's why when Penguin Random House Canada asked me to take part in the blog tour for S.T.A.G.S by M.A. Bennett, a new YA novel that centers around a scholarship student at a prestigious prep school, and has been compared to The Raven Boys (PHENOMENAL SERIES, GO READ IT NOW), I jumped at the chance.
However, in an unfortunate turn of events, I really disliked the book. I don't know if it was because I found the comparisons being made about it were false, or because it was hyped up a little too much, or if it just wasn't my cup of tea. In any case, I didn't want to write a full negative review here, so instead I decided to give you a list of my favourite school setting books. In case you, like me, LOVE stories with a school setting.
Thank you to Penguin Teen Canada for sending me an advanced copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. If you want to check out my full review of S.T.A.G.S, you can head over to my Goodreads. But, be warned, the review will be negative.
Now, on to more exciting things - LISTS! Here are my top 10 favourite "school setting" books.
1. HARRY POTTER
I feel like this is a no-brainer. Harry Potter is the epitome of a "school setting" novel. Heck, Hogwarts is basically a character in the series! One could argue Hogwarts is one of the most important things in the series, if not the most important. It's where Harry escapes to. It's where everyone learns magic - even the bad guys. It is the story's history, and future. It is literally where everything begins and ends. Hogwarts is our home, after all.
2. LOOKING FOR ALASKA
I know this is one of the John Green books that people don't always agree on, but it is my personal favourite. I love the characters, I love the way the plot is split in half through a before and after element. And I love the way the school holds everything in place. Culver Creek is almost like a whole other world for Pudge. It allows him to grow and discover in ways he didn't feel he could before the Creek. It also allows for a more realistic place for a bunch of teenagers to get into a shit-tone of trouble.
3. THE NAME OF THE WIND
*internally screams* As some of you may, or may not, know, The Name Of The Wind is my favourite book. Pretty much of all time. (Excluding HP, obviously). The University in this novel is not 'A' university, but rather "The" University. It is hard to get accepted into, and even harder to stay in. Plus, it helps that it teaches its students how to harness "magic". The University in this book is a huge element to the overall story because it not only captures a large part of Kvothe's (our MC) life, but it also helps the reader understand the magic system in this universe. And the magic system is pretty frikken cool, guys.
Say it with me.... POST-HIGH SCHOOL-SCHOOL. In this case, university. Most of the YA out there centers around high school as the main "school" setting, but not Fangirl. Fangirl follows Cath as she navigates her first year as an undergraduate in university. It touches on many issues first year students will feel or face at school, from "Where is the cafeteria? How do I even get in line? Can I get more than one thing? Where is my class? How do I get from one class to the next on time? Why is the cute human in my creative writing class interacting with me? Why isn't my roommate talking more? ... the list is endless. Rowell tackles these questions in a way that doesn't seem daunting or pretentious. Plus, there is a lot of focus on mental health, family, friendship, and maybe even a little bit of romance.
5. GIANT DAYS
Speaking of university settings, let me introduce the best realistic comic girl gang out there: Esther, Susan and Daisy. Giant Days follows these three girls, who were put together in first year even though they have nothing major in common, and they decide to stay together. The series follows them over many years, and many obstacles. It is laugh out loud funny at times, relatable most of the time, and genius at others. If you like graphic novels/comics you need to check this one out!
6. MORNING GLORIES
The school is literally the story in this one. Imagine being accepted to one of the most prestigious private schools in the country, only to find out everyone accepted has the same birthday... and maybe it isn't a high school after all...
This is one of my favourite graphic novel series of all time. There is always a new twist, a new turn, someone new you can't trust. I normally like to describe this series as Gossip Girl meets Lost, but with much more murder and "WHAT THE HECK IS HAPPENING!?".
7. ELEANOR & PARK
This one is tricky, because as much as the school is still an important setting in the novel, the school BUS is really the best part. But, I guess there wouldn't be a school bus without school - so I'm counting it. In many of the title on this list the school was more of an entity. It wasn't simply a place, it held a purpose for the plot. In Eleanor & Park, the school wasn't as important as the kids in school, or what interacting with those kids meant. It was more about bullying, and overcoming peer-pressure - all the things school can feel like it is really about for a teenager.
Oh, man. Enter two very intelligent, very overachieving males at university. Make them roommates. Maybe have them look into how people survive near death experiences. Possibly they also want to be 'super'. Vicious is a compulsively readable ride about two best friends who realize that almost dying can make you gain super powers. But, not all super powered people are heroes...
9. NEVER LET ME GO
Time for some literary fiction! The school in Never Let Me Go represents so many things it almost feels like 'school' is too small a word. Hailsham, the school in the book, is a home, a mystery and a nightmare, all in one. I can't say more than that without giving spoilers away, but this book is heart-wrenching, and the school is the major reason why.
10. PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER
This book encompasses so many themes. Friendship, knowledge, self-discovery, mistakes... and it all starts with a boy in high school with no friends. The school itself isn't important, I don't even remember the name of the school, but school in general plays a huge role. It's where he becomes part of a group. Gains friends, plural. Connects with a teacher who helps him read new books, that teach him new lessons. It's where he attends football games, and gets invited to parties. It's also where he can hide from the truth.
Make sure to check out the other stops on the tour!
January 22nd - Flavia @ Flavia the Bibliophile
January 23rd - Trang @ Bookidote
January 24th - Sabrina @ Hiver et Cafe
January 25th - Zoe @ Writing Whimsy
January 26th - Ryley @ Ryley Reads
January 29th - Laurie @ Books and Chinooks
January 30th - Victoria @ The Contented Reader
Let me know some of your favourite "school setting" books in the comments down below!