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Find more After John Knowles' A Separate Peace
Countless comparisons have been made between Knowles’ classic coming-of-age story, A Separate Peace (1959), and today’s YA novels similarly set at a boarding school. What is it about these books that makes for such darn compelling reading? The ivy-covered secrets? Privileged students drunk on freedom? The close living quarters? Whatever it is, the seven novels listed below—each centered on a prestigious boarding school—don’t skimp on mysteries, illicit affairs, elaborate pranks, and emotionally complex characters. In other words, they’re the direct descendants of A Separate Peace.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. By E. Lockhart. 2008. Hyperion, $16.99 (9780786838189). Gr. 7–12.
On her return to elite Alabaster Prep for sophomore year, Frankie Landau-Banks, newly transformed from scrawny to curvy, attracts the attention of hot, popular senior Matthew. Then Frankie learns that Matthew is a member of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, an all-male Alabaster secret society to which Frankie’s dad once belonged. Excluded from belonging to or even discussing the Bassets, Frankie engineers her own guerrilla membership by assuming a false online identity. A clever satire about the capers of the entitled.
The Little Woods. By McCormick Templeman. 2012. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $17.99 (9780375869433). Gr. 9–12.
In this smart, moody debut, 17-year-old Cally transfers to elite St. Bede’s for her junior year. It’s the site of her sister’s vanishing 10 years earlier, as well as a more recent disappearance. Investigation is not her intent; rather, it’s plain old social integration. Each friend and potential lover she meets is something of an enigma, but in Templeman’s hands, this evasiveness is a boon, as she jukes expectation at every turn.
Looking for Alaska. By John Green. 2005. Dutton, $15.99 (0-525-47506-0). Gr. 9–12.
Green’s first novel tells the story of eleventh-grader Miles Halter, who leaves his boring life in Florida in hopes of boarding-school adventures in Alabama. A collector of famous last words, Miles is after what the dying Francois Rabelais called “the Great Perhaps.” His fast-talking and quick-witted roommate introduces him to the enigmatic Alaska Young, who in turn introduces Miles to the purported last words of Simón Bolívar: “Damn it. How will I ever get out of this labyrinth?” It is a question that haunts Miles, particularly in the last third of this insightful novel.
The Mockingbirds. By Daisy Whitney. 2010. Little, Brown, $16.99 (9780316090537). Gr. 9–12.
When Alex, a junior at New England boarding school Themis, wakes up naked in a boy’s bed, she doesn’t immediately realize what has happened during the previous drunken night. As fragmented memories return, and she realizes she was date-raped, Alex submits her case to the Mockingbirds, an underground justice system inspired by Harper Lee’s classic novel. This strong debut explores vital teen topics of sex and violence; crime and punishment; ineffectual authority; and the immeasurable, healing influence of friendship and love.
Paper Covers Rock. By Jenny Hubbard. 2011. Delacorte, $16.99 (9780385740555). Gr. 9–12.
At the beginning of his junior year of boarding school, Alex loses a good friend to an accidental—and drunken—death, and by the end of that first semester, he has lost his moral innocence as well. After Alex’s friend dies, he retreats emotionally while also allowing his new, young, and pretty English teacher to coax out his poetic abilities. Meanwhile, Glenn, another student and former friend, tortures Alex with doubts about Alex’s own motives related to both the dead boy and the English teacher. Can Alex counter Glenn’s attempts to oust the teacher?
Prep. By Curtis Sittenfeld. 2005. Random, $24.95 (1-4000-6231-4).
Winger. By Andrew Smith. Illus. by Sam Bosma. 2013. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (9781442444928). Gr. 9–12.
At 14, Ryan Dean West is a couple years younger (and scrawnier) than the rest of the juniors at Pine Mountain. The rail ties of his single-track mind, though, are his exploits (or lack thereof) with the opposite sex, particularly his best friend, Annie, who thinks he is “adorable.” He rates the hotness of every female in sight but also drops surprising bombs of personal depth on a friend’s homosexuality, the poisonous rivalries that can ruin friendships, and his own highly unstable mix of insecurity and evolving self-confidence.
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